WAS LUKE HISTORICALLY INCORRECT?

Luke was a meticulous historian. Archaeologist Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) spent a lifetime researching the historical trustworthiness of Luke’s writings (Luke and Acts) and came to the conclusion, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy… [he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[1] However, a common argument among critics of the New Testament is that Luke appears to commit a historical error regarding the census connected with a Roman official named Quirinius (“Cyrenius” is the Greek form of Quirinius). If Luke was incorrect in his information, then that casts a disparaging light upon the reliability and inspiration of Scripture.

Was Luke historically incorrect?

Luke in telling the timeless story of Jesus’ birth begins, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city” (Luke 2:1-3).

Of Luke 2:2 skeptics contend Dr. Luke’s citing of Quirinius is a historical contradiction. Luke writes that Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem for a census and “this was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” The Jewish historian, Josephus, confirmed the existence of his governorship and census, but placed Quirinius from AD 6 to AD 12. [2] This time is too late to line up with the birth of Jesus, as Matthew wrote that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, who according to Josephus, died nine years prior to the Syrian governorship of Quirinius. The authority of Josephus seems to be at odds with the accuracy of the Gospel writers.  Critics question Luke’s historical reliability and argue that Luke is wrong in his dating of the census under Quirinius.  

Is there an answer to this seeming contradiction?

It is known from ancient Judean and Egyptian papyri that the Romans had a regular enrollment of taxpayers and that they held censuses every fourteen years (begun by Augustus Caesar) which lasted for several centuries. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165), a second century Christian apologist and philosopher, affirms and asserts three times in his writings that Christ was born under Quirinius and refers to the census that was taken. Martyr wrote, “Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judea” [3] In other words, Martyr insists that if you want proof that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just go look at the census records (which still existed at that time he wrote).   A mistake on the part of so careful an investigator doesn’t seem likely. If Quirinius had not been governor of Syria at that time, there were many persons living who could and would have pointed out the mistake. However, that hasn’t kept skeptics from attacking Luke on the grounds that Quirinius appears to have been only governor of Syria once and that was from 6 AD, past the time of Herod’s death and the birth of Jesus.

From history, Herod died in the year 4 BC. So we might conclude that Jesus must have been born about one or two years before the date of Herod’s death.  Archaeologist Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) has proven by discovered inscriptions that Quirinius was twice governor of Syria, the first time about the date usually assigned to the birth of Christ.[4] An old monumental inscription speaks of a second governorship of Quirinius and this is confirmed by a passage in Tacitus (c. AD 56 – c. 120), a Roman historian and politician.[5] A series of inscriptions in Asia Minor show that Quirinius was governor of Syria in 10-7 BC, and again from AD 6-AD 12. [6] The latest inscriptional evidence shows that Quirinius was a legate in Syria for census purposes in 8-6 BC. Ramsay shows that the enrollment in Syria took place in 8-6 BC and due to delays of getting the word out and the geography of travel involved, this would bring time to 6-5 BC before all could register which would be the accepted time of the birth of Jesus. [7]  

Also, there has been discovered the name of Quirinius on a coin in micrographic letters, placing him as proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC until after the death of Herod. [8]   In fact, Luke’s terminology of referring to the “first” census under Quirinius can be taken to imply that there was a second, the one Josephus refers, too. Quirinius returned to Syria in 6 AD as the resident Imperial Legate, oversaw a second census, this time just for the region, which is mentioned in Acts 5:37, and governed the province for six years before retiring to Rome in 12 AD at 63 years of age. This is why Luke 2:2 specifies the census as the “first” one “taken while Quirinius was governing Syria.” If Luke thought that there was just one census (in AD 6), then he wouldn’t have called it the first census, he would’ve called it the census. This being so, there would be no conflict between Luke and Josephus. Both would be right.

Yes, archeological discoveries have shown Luke to be wholly correct in his statement that Quirinius was twice governor, and that the first census took place during the first period. Everywhere we can check the Bible’s history, it proves reliable. Archaeological discoveries always VERIFY that the Bible is true!!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] William Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915), 222.

[2] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1.

[3] Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 34.

[4] William Ramsay, Was Jesus Born in Bethlehem, (London: Hodder & Stroughton, 1898), 227ff.

[5] Tacitus, Annals, Book iii, Chapter 48.

[6] A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels, (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1922), 266.

[7] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, (Edinburgh Scotland: Saint Andrew Press, 1953), 15; Herschel H. Hobbs, Luke, (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1966), 49.

[8] John McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), 154.

HE DID IT ALL FOR ME…AND YOU!

Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary. That Jesus died on a cruel Roman cross is a historical fact. While it is universally recognized Jesus died on the cross, few seem to know what death by crucifixion entailed. Understanding what was involved when one was crucified gives us a greater appreciation of what Christ went through as He endured the shame and agony of the cross for all humanity. [1]  And to think, He did it all for me…and you!

The Roman practice of crucifixion was taken from the Carthaginians (800 B.C.) who were a very cruel and barbaric people. They adopted it from the Persians and Assyrians who used the cross as a method to slowly torture their enemies to death. It was said the cross was the most horrible form of punishment devised by man. The Roman orator Cicero said of crucifixion, “It is the most wretched of deaths, the supreme capital punishment.” [2] For its degree of torture, crucifixion was listed ahead of burning alive, decapitation, and eaten by wild beasts. Death by crucifixion was so ghastly it was reserved for the worst criminals, slaves and foreigners.

For one who was crucified on the cross the normal procedure was first a flogging. The whip used had 3-9 lashes on it. At the end of each lash were pieces of metal, bone or stone. The victim was hit 39 times (40 save 1). The victim being flogged, depending on the number of lashes on the whip, could receive from 120 to 350 lashes across the back, each strike painfully cutting deep into the flesh like a knife. Josephus, an early Jewish historian, records that flogging could be so vicious it could often cause a man’s teeth and eyes to be knocked out. Many victims wouldn’t live through the flogging, dying in their own pool of blood.

Not only did Jesus receive this flogging (Isaiah 50:6; John 19:1), He was beaten with the fists of the soldiers (John 18:22) and beaten on the head with a rod (Matthew 27:30). He was spit upon and His beard was painfully plucked out (Isaiah 50:6). Then a crown of thorns was pressed into His brow (John 19:5). If the victim lived through the flogging and the severe beatings, which Jesus did, they were required to carry their cross to the place of execution. Understanding the flogging the victim went through before being crucified one can see why Christ, in a weakened state, was unable to carry His cross to Calvary, Simon of Cyrene being chosen out of the crowd to bear the cross for Him (Mark 15:21-22).

Once to the place of execution the victim was stretched on the cross, his bleeding back screaming in agony when placed upon the rough splintered wood. The victim’s hands and feet were then nailed to cross. The pain experienced as the hammer drove the nails through the joints and tendons of the victim is incomprehensible. As the cross was dropped into the ground with a thud one can only imagine the pain the victim experienced as every joint and muscle jerked with pain and agony. Death came slowly and was excruciating. The victim slowly died of suffocation as the weight was on the diaphragm. The victim could only breathe by pulling with their hands and pushing with their feet. Each breath was a struggle and was agonizing.

Relief only came in death. It was said a healthy man could hang on the cross for as much as 48 hours before dying. To speed up death, a victim’s legs would be broken so they could no longer push-up to breathe. John tells us that the soldiers were going to break the legs of Jesus to speed up His death, but He had already died. That they didn’t break Jesus’ legs was a fulfillment of prophecy (John 19:31-36).

While words cannot ever adequately describe the horrible torment of being crucified, this was the torturous death Jesus experienced. Why would God the Father choose the cross, the cruelest and most horrible punishment devised by man, to be the method by which salvation would be won for sinful humanity? While the cross pictures numerous spiritual truths about ourselves and the Father, there are two that demand our attention.

First, the cross pictures the blackness, ugliness and vileness of our sins. As one gazes at the cross the ghastly sight of Christ’s beaten, bruised and bloody body suspended between heaven and earth in the darkness of the day pictures how our sin looks in the sight of a holy God. As H.R. Mackintosh has said, “That God gave Christ to man and they could do no better than crucify Him, casts a terrible light upon our sinfulness.” [3] P.T. Forsyth wrote, “Sin is more than failure to live up to an ideal of human conduct. Sin is rebellion against a holy God so that when we sin we are putting ourselves at a distance from God and creating a chasm between Him and ourselves which we cannot bridge by our own efforts.” [4]

At the cross we see the ugliness and blackness of sin in the eyes of a Holy God. Because sin is an offense to God’s holiness, His holiness opposes sin in judgment. Holiness demands like holiness in return and if that can’t be complied with then sin must be judged. Since man can’t comply with God’s holy demands then he is in a terrible predicament.

Second, the cross pictures to us the holy-love of God. The same holy-love which judges sin, is the same holy-love which provides salvation from our sin. Martin Hengel writes, “In the death of Jesus of Nazareth God identified himself with the extreme of human wretchedness, which Jesus endured as a Representative of us all, in order to bring us to the freedom of the children of God.” [5] The cross did not just happen to Jesus, He came on purpose for it. At the cross God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). It was at the cross, “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). At the cross we see our God in Jesus Christ assuming our obligation (2 Cor. 5:21), and redeeming us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). The cross shouts to us like nothing else can, “Christ loved us and has given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice” (Eph. 5:2).

John R. Stott has written, “For in order to save us in such a way as to satisfy himself, God through Christ substituted himself for us. Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice.” [6] The Father’s holy-love, demonstrated in the life and cross of Christ, His indescribable love. It was not the nails that held Christ to the cross as He was being mocked and spit upon, but his indescribable love held Him there. It was His holy-love that did for you and I what we could never do for ourselves. His love was an individual love. He died for you and me.  As our Substitute,  Christ paid the sin debt for the “whosoevers” of the world (John 3:16). Yes, the cross pictures the holy-love of the Father which became incarnate in Christ who did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

In the days of the Roman Empire the cross was a symbol of death, defeat, despair and shame. Yet Christ transformed the cross into a symbol of hope, deliverance, grace, redemption, forgiveness, salvation, life, love, and light. The more one ponders the wonder of the cross, the more one bows in awe before the Christ of the cross.

 And He did it all for me…and you!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

                                                                                     Footnotes

[1] For an excellent treatment on what victims endured through crucifixion see Martin Hengel, Crucifixion, (Philadelphia: fortress Press, 1977).

[2]  Cicero, Against Verres 2.5.169.

[3] Cited in Ronald Wallace, The Gospel of John, (Scottish Academic Press, 1991), 7.

[4] Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910), 94-98.

[5] Hengel, Crucifixion, 18-19.

[6] Stott, The Cross of Christ, (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 159.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM A SINGLET

Saturday I was checking the oil in my lawnmower before cutting the lawn.  I reached in a box for a rag to wipe off the dipstick. I grabbed what I thought was a rag, but to my utter surprise it was my old high school track singlet.   Since I graduated from high school in 1970, I was holding in my hand a singlet over 50 years old! What it was doing in that box in the garage I have no idea. I thought the singlet was safely tucked away in a drawer in my bedroom, but I guess over the years in the process of moving many times as a pastor it found a resting place unfitting for my old friend. As I held the singlet in my hand a flood of memories came rushing into my mind. While the track singlet is meaningless to anyone but me, but for me it holds a wealth of meaning as to what it represents.

I only wore it when I raced. It symbolized I was about to do battle, that I was about to test my body and ask it to do what it naturally did not want to do yet was trained to do. When I slipped that singlet on it seemed to give me a mental edge that I could not duplicate wearing any other shirt. The singlet represented commitment, hard work and the sacrifices I had made to prepare to run fast. The singlet came to demand respect and attention when I stepped to the line. The singlet represented inspiration and motivation. The singlet represented the pride I felt to be a member of the Sanford Central High track team. Being a rather shy individual when it came to expressing myself verbally, the singlet represented that my legs could speak volumes for me.  As I held that singlet in my hand Saturday, all those emotions, attitudes and feelings associated with it once again flooded my soul like a river overflowing her banks.

Yes, I know the over half-a-century singlet is but a sewn piece of cloth with two strips and a “S” on it, but to me it is a reminder that we all need in our lives that which inspires us that we are to work hard, sacrifice, set goals and be the best we can be at whatever we undertake in life. When I put on that singlet, I would never think of giving less than my best, and it behooves each of us every day to put on our invisible singlet to give the Good Lord our best. In the race of life, He deserves no less than our best.  By the way, while the singlet has been washed and tucked away in a safe place, the lessons it symbolizes have been with me for over half-a-century.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

AN OCEAN OF MEANING IN ONE WORD!

 In John 19:30 one finds arguably the most important word that Jesus ever uttered. In the last minutes of his tortuous six hours hanging on the cross, shortly before He committed His spirit to the Father, He cried out through parched, cracked  and bleeding lips the word, “Tetelestai.”  While in the Greek it is one word, it took three English words to express its meaning, “It is finished.” O, what an utterance by the Christ of the Cross!

Never has one word been spoken which contains so much meaning. Charles Surgeon has eloquently written, “What an ocean of meaning in a drop of language, a mere drop. It would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it. IT IS FINISHED is the most charming note in all of Calvary’s music.”

The word translated “It is finished” contains a wealth of meaning. Observing how the word “tetelestai” was commonly used in the ancient world serves as a doorway to understanding what Jesus accomplished on the Cross for us when he proclaimed, “It is finished.” In the Greek it is in the perfect tense, meaning  what was done in the past continues to  have existing present results! Christ’s utterance has ongoing results even unto this present hour!

First, John used the word when writing about Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. John 19:28 records that in Christ all things were “accomplished” regarding His fulfillment of the Scriptures. The word John uses is “tetelestai”…..all has been completed, has been fulfilled, and has been accomplished. Of the over 300 prophecies surrounding the promised Messiah, Christ fulfilled every one of the them to the letter. Scripture’s fulfillment is finished, it has all been accomplished and completed in Jesus Christ. After His resurrection, Jesus explained to the two travelers on the road to Emmaus that He was the complete and perfect fulfillment of all the Messianic prophecies found in the Law, prophets, and the psalms (Luke 24:36-45). We need not look for another Savior…He has come, all is complete and finished in Jesus.

Second, SERVANTS used the word when having obediently completed a task for their master. With the job being faithfully finished the servant would proclaim, “tetelestai”…it is finished. As Jesus uttered “It is finished” He was proclaiming that he had obediently completed the task of obeying the Law of God perfectly which the Father had sent Him to do. As the faithful Servant of God, as the Representative of humanity, Christ lived the perfect life the holiness of God demands, providing for us His perfect righteousness that enables us stand before the Lord uncondemned. “For there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Third, PRIESTS used the word when examining before offering an animal sacrifice for someone, and upon finding the lamb acceptable would say, “Tetelestai.” When Jesus cried, “It is finished” He was proclaiming as our High Priest that His Sacrifice was acceptable to the Holy Father. God’s Holiness demands justice against sin’s violation of defying His holy standards. But not only did Christ, as our High Priest, offer the Sacrifice, He was the Sacrifice. “He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Offering Himself as the sacrificial Lamb, He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21). Christ’s resurrection is God’s “Amen” that His Sacrifice was acceptable and the need to offer anymore sacrifices for sins is forever finished!

Fourth, MERCHANTS used the word when a note or bill was paid, writing “tetelestai” across the note/bill signifying that it had been paid in full. Because of Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death, the sin debt we could never pay was PAID IN FULL. Christ paid a debt He didn’t owe to pay a debt we could never pay. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).

Fifth, PRISONERS, guilty of a crime, were put in prison a “certificate of debt” listing the crimes and the penalty incurred was nailed to their cell door. When the prisoner had paid his debt to society, authorities would sign the “certificate of debt” with the word “tetelestai”….the debt has been paid. All humanity is guilty of rebelliously not complying with the holiness of God’s righteous Law, and we are imprisoned by our guilt and sin. Erwin Lutzer has written, “We can stand with confidence despite the thunder of the law and the lightening flash of justice, for we are safe beneath the cross. He paid the very last cent of the wages of our sins.”

Sixth, ARTISTS used the word when they made the last brushstroke on a painting, exclaiming, “Tetelestai” ….it is finished, it is done, it is complete. All of the Old Treatment promised pictures of the Messiah were fulfilled in Christ. Some examples: In Genesis, the Messiah is painted as the Seed of the Woman, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In Exodus, the Messiah is painted as the Passover Lamb, in Jesus the portrait is finished.  In Leviticus, the Messiah is painted as our High Priest, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In Deuteronomy, the Messiah is painted as the Great Prophet, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In Isaiah, the Messiah is painted as the Suffering Servant, the Heir to David’s throne and the One born of a virgin, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In Malachi, the Messiah is painted as the Son of Righteousness, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In every painting of Christ found in the 66 OT books, in Jesus every portrait is finished, completed, and hung as a Masterpiece.

Seventh, MATHEMATICANS used the word when after completing a complicated math problem, exclaimed, “Tetelistai”…..it is finished, it is done, it is complete. The spiritual math of humanity is skewed in its thinking, believing that we can  “add” to our ledger enough good works that will add up to us obtaining salvation by our own efforts. The Bible is clear that by the works of the Law no one can be saved (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16). No one can ever do enough good works that will add up to self-justifying salvation.  Salvation, plus nothing and minus nothing, is found only in the Christ of the Cross. Our works “add-up” to nothing, but Christ’s Sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to save all who knell before Him in acceptance of his finished work.

Eighth, CONQUERING WARRIORS used the word when victorious in battle, “tetelistai”…..it is finished, the victory is complete and victory has been accomplished. When Christ cried out, “It is finished” it was not a word of one who was defeated, but of a Conquering Savior who was victorious over sin, satan, death and the grave. As Jesus hung on the cross, the world said, “Aha” but three days later arising from the dead the world said, “Huh?” Our Champion accepted the challenge to do battle for our soul’s redemption against every evil foe… and He was victorious! He was victorious, and all those who place their trust in Him share in His victory. Halleluiah!

It is finished! What a grand utterance. We bow in awe before such majestic words. Thankfully, the redemptive work of Christ has been fully, finally and forever been accomplished.

It is finished!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

SILENCE IS NO LONGER AN OPTION

We are in a culture war. We have been for some time. Coming under assault are the very values of our Founding Fathers, our religious freedoms, and freedom of speech. The culture war grinds slowly onward, yet is making inroads a little at a time. There are times when the progressivism of the left is so slow little attention is paid to the progress or it is dismissed as nonsense and a chuckle for what is perceived as foolishness.  Sometimes the “doings” of the radical left are so ludicrous that we laugh and fail to look at their ultimate agenda in what many would call absurd actions. If it wasn’t so sad we would laugh at the left’s agenda in their counter culture attack on Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head, Peter Pan, Dumbo,   Pepe Le Pew,  Swiss Family Robinson, etc., labeling such as being offensive and negative stereotypes which create division and disharmony in society and needs to be censored.  What one needs to not overlook is the left’s agenda, while seeming to border on the absurd, is carefully calculating and planned as they incrementally begin to censor anything and everything they consider divisive to their agenda.

The tactics of the radical left is called incrementalism, the slow and steady compromise of turning of a society and culture toward some evil goal. As an example, incrementalism has slowly conditioned society to the acceptance of culturally destructive open abnormal moral behavioral lifestyles.  As well, incrementalism has given us from  the progressiveness of abortion in the mother’s womb,  to now, not only accepted as a culture norm, but in many states the taking of the life of a baby upon delivery. And when the left makes inroads through compromise, they use their momentum to springboard themselves to further their agenda to more conquests. Incrementalism thrives on a system of compromise.

Well, we now see it happening in regard to censorship. By censoring a little of this and a little of that, the left is conditioning people to tolerate a little at a time their censorship. The ultimate goal is to eventually silence the Christian message, which it is no secret they consider to be divisive and a harbinger of “hate speech.”  The left opposes the Church’s teaching that moral truth does exist and there is a moral standard of right and wrong given by a Divine Law Giver. It may be Mr. Potato Head today, but the goal is far more reaching….the goal is to silence the Church and the Christian message.  Today there is a growing trend of government intrusion into the affairs of the Church, posing a serious threat to church autonomy and our most basic religious freedoms. Pastors are being censored, the proclamation of Biblical truth is being blocked, and churches are being discriminated against and threatened with punishment. Christians must speak out boldly, yet lovingly,  while we can, for the left’s goal is to silence the voice of the Church.  Silence in no longer an option. There is nothing virtuous about being silent in the face of the agenda of those bent on transforming culture into a godless society.

When Germany was in the slowly tightening grip of Nazism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer insightfully wrote to Erwin Sutz on September 11, 1934, of the Church adopting silence in the face of evil,  “We must finally stop appealing to theology to justify our reserved silence about what the state is doing — for that is nothing but fear. ‘Open your mouth for the one who is voiceless’ — for who in the church today still remembers that that is the least of the Bible’s demands in times such as these?” If Christians do not take a stand in the light of Scriptural principles, we will inevitably interpret the Scriptures in light of national policies which have become anti-scriptural. That’s exactly what Bonhoeffer saw happen in Germany, with tragic results. May God grant us courageous voices to speak up so as to not let history repeat itself.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

THE SATANIC ATTACK ON GOD’S CREATIVE DESIGN

 Satan today is waging an all-out assault on God’s designed identity for each individual. In the Evil One’s onslaught upon God’s order and design, the enemy of all that is right and good hopes to destroy God’s authority and distort one’s divinely created identity. The distinction between manhood and womanhood is not just being blurred but is being obliterated. Males and females are told their biological identity is incidental, and one is encouraged to change one’s gender if one is so inclined.    Gender has become fluid, as one is encouraged to become other than what one was biologically created to be.  We are told using personal pronouns distinguishing between male and female is insensitive, biased and discriminatory.  As well, if one is born with skin color that is considered privileged one is told they need to loathe the color of their skin and apologize for the way one was created by God.

What we are witnessing today is a deliberate attack by Satan upon God’s authority and His creative acts. God created and designed each person a specific gender of either male or male, with a particular skin color, born in a certain location, each given certain gifts and talents, to fulfill a purpose that no one else can fulfill. We were created to add to the beautiful mosaic of life, and when we seek to be something other than what we were created to be we are calling into question the infinite wisdom of God in his creation and are basically saying, “You made a mistake in creating me the way you did and where I was born. I know more than you do so I will change your design of me to be other than who you created me to be.”  The Satanic attack we see on one’s identity is actually a rebellious assault upon God’s sovereignty, His authority, and His creative wisdom.

Secularism teaches that there is no Intelligent Designer, no Divine Creator, and our body and who we are, and where we were born was not in the designed plan of a sovereign God, but was simply the luck of the cards we were dealt. However, the Bible teaches just the opposite. We were marvelously created by God (Ps. 139:14) , our biological gender designed by God (Gen. 1:27), that He has a plan for each of our lives (Jer. 1:5), and that our bodies are to be temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19).  We were not born into this world as a blank eraser board left to sketch-out our own gender or racial identity, but we were designed by a Sovereign Creator to give expression to the creative purposes for which He has gifted each of us. Each of us have been created in the Image of God and made to have fellowship with our Creator, and as we seek His divine wisdom there will be unfolded to us the plan, purpose, and path He has created for each of us. Ture fulfillment in life is not found in separating from our Creator, but surrendering to Him in order that the full expression of His creative design in us and for us can be realized.

Satan today, by sowing seeds of doubt regarding one’s created identity, is seeking to usurp the created order and authority of God and destroy the stable structures that make for an orderly society. Sadly, when one deviates from their biological identity and the gender roles as taught in the Bible, the outcome will be pain, frustration and brokenness and the missing of God’s plan for one’s life. In the destructive moral climate of today how should the Christian respond to Satan’s attack to destroy the divinely created order as found in the Judeo-Christian teaching  regarding our creative identity?

First, we should recognize that God has purposefully created and designed each individual. Psalms 139:14 reads, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Our biological gender, the color of our skin, where we were born, was not an accident or luck of the draw, but God purposefully designed our existence. We are who we are by Divine purpose. Created in God’s Image, humankind is the crown of His creation. In eternity past He knew us, He knew us in our mother’s womb  and created us with a purpose to fulfill. That purpose can only be fully realized as we in a relationship with our Creator, seek His face to discover the unfolding of His plan, purpose and path for our lives. To walk in the path of our created identity and in the purpose which we were created brings fulfillment in life. To disregard God’s creative design brings turmoil and disorder.

Second, we should understand the attempt to alter one’s created identity and dissolve the natural order of God in regard to one’s race and biological gender, is a ploy of the Devil to destroy all adherence to biblical authority and is direct rebellion against the God who created each individual.  When one abandons their created identity in search of another, chaos and confusion will result in one’s individual life and in society as a whole.  Disregarding the God who created us goes hand in hand with personal confusion and disorder. The Devil is working overtime today to dissolve and destroy God’s creative design.

Third, parents and the church must teach our children that they were created by God who makes no mistakes, to be the gender they are, the color of their skin, and that He has a purpose for their lives. Whether a boy or girl, regardless of the color of their skin, no  where they live, God has a purpose for their lives and they are designed by the Creator to have fellowship with Him and bring honor and glory to Him. If we don’t teach our children these fundamental truths, the world will seek to indoctrinate them otherwise, creating in them confusion. The Devil desires to destroy and capture the hearts of children with unbiblical teaching, so it is of utmost importance Christian parents and the church do not neglect their responsibility to teach them who they are and their gender are gifts from the God who created them.

Fourth, the Church must reach out in loving compassion to those caught up in the deceptive web  of Satan who seeks to distort and destroy one’s creative identity. Sin manifests itself in a variety of ways, and the result, no matter the sinful path taken, is brokenness. The Church must proclaim the hope that is found in Christ, who can change one’s heart, restore one to a relationship with Himself, and who leads individuals to embrace their God-given identity.

It is clear that today God’s creative order and one’s creative identity is under attack. As Christians we must boldly yet compassionately stand against this demonic assault on the values of the Word of God and His authority. We must maintain a high view of the sanctity of life and, as well, that God in His sovereign purposes and creative acts makes no mistakes as to our gender, the color of our skin, or where we were born. Satan seeks to sow seeds of confusion and chaos, but the Church must shine the Gospel light into the darkness  helping  others to fully realize God makes no mistakes and we are who we are by the Divine design of a loving God who Himself walked among us in Jesus Christ.  Let us be true to our creative identity, for in so doing we are being true to ourselves, to  humanity, and to the God who created us.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE GIVEN OVER TO A REPROBATE MIND?

We are living in morally depraved times. We are far removed from the Judeo-Christian morality   upon which this nation was founded. We have gradually sunk into a cesspool of moral degradation to where as a nation we are drowning in our own filth. There comes a time when a people can become so engrossed in their own vile affections that the Bible says, “For this cause, God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (proper)” (Romans 1:26-28).

Paul writes there can come a time when a people can reject and suppress God’s revealed truth (Rom. 1:18) until He turns one over to a “reprobate mind”  or a depraved mind (Rom 8:28). What is a reprobate mind? Before looking in depth at what it means, a reprobate mind refers to those whom God has rejected for their purposeful rejection of Him and their continual  embracing of their godless depravity,  and as a result  the Lord turns them over to the inevitable destructive consequences of their own vile affections and sin. In other words, those turned over to a reprobate mind will be left alone to  eventually be destroyed by their own moral depravity.  This can happen to individuals or nations.

Let us examine Romans 1:28 a little more closely and examine Paul’s play upon words in using the word “reprobate.” Though not retained in English, this play of words when understood shines great light upon the text. Again, verse 28 reads, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (proper).” Paul says those who have given themselves over to file affections “did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”  The words translated “did not like” comes from the Greek word “dokimazo” which means “to put to the test for the purpose of approving, to put one’s approval upon something or someone, to declare as worthwhile.” The word “dokimazo” was used to speak of testing metals or coins to see if they met the proper specifications and passed the test for approval. Paul says there are those who put the God of the Bible to the test as to whether or not He meets their specifications and meets their approval as to being a god of their liking. Since they would rather embrace their vile affections and depravity, they reject the Moral Law Giver of the Universe as not meeting the specifications which they have laid down for a god who would be of their liking. Since the God of heaven doesn’t meet their approval, they refuse to approve Him as worthy of submission, worship, or to retain Him in their knowledge. Since the Creator of the Universe doesn’t meet their liking, they reject him.

Paul goes on to say in verse 28 that those who determine that the Moral Lawgiver of the Universe doesn’t fit their approval and reject Him, He turns them over to a “reprobate mind.” The word “reprobate” is from the Greek word “adokimos.”  In the Greek language when an alpha (a) is put in front of a word it makes it a negative. So, the word adokimos means “unapproved, not meeting the test, not accepted; that is, that which is rejected because it is worthless.” The word adokimos came to be used to speak of that which was literally worthless or morally worthless. “Reprobate” means “tried and found wanting, and therefore cast away as worthless.” The play on words is clearly seen. Those who have given themselves over without restraint to vile affections, and have announced the Moral Law Giver doesn’t meet their approval or meets the test as to being a god of their liking, thus reject Him. As a result,  God gives them over to drown in their own moral corruption and are themselves in the end rejected as not meeting the approval of a holy God.

So when Paul begins verse 28 with the words “even as” he is saying just in like proportion you reject God because He doesn’t meet your approval as to be a God to your liking, in the end you will find you are rejected because you don’t meet His approval. The degree of God’s rejection corresponds exactly to the degree of man’s willful rejection of God. It is truly sad when an individual or a nation rejects God to the place they have become hardened in their sin “to do those things which are not convenient (proper)” (Romans 1:28).

It is abundantly clear we are living in such a time when as a nation our leaders have given themselves over “to do those things which are not proper” and are clearly contrary to the moral laws of the Moral Law Giver of the Universe.  Our current leaders continue to choose the path of moral depravity in regard to abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, gender identity, the dismantling of traditional marriage between man and a woman, pushing Equality Act, and moral perversion of every kind. By declaring the God of Judeo-Christian morality as to not meeting their approval as being the kind of god they would like, they are sealing their own fate and the fate of this nation. I wonder if is too late, for is it is not in the DNA of our current leaders to make any decision that favors Judeo-Christian morality, but every decision made results in us as a nation descending lower into the depraved cesspool of moral perversion.  The outcome is clear to those paying attention, if we continue on the moral path we are currently on we will be allowed to be washed away in our own flood of moral perversion.

The choice is open to us all. Either we retain God in our knowledge and commit ourselves to His will and ways, or we put Him out of our minds and are given over by Him to our depravity,  and receiving divine disapproval,  allowed to drown in our sin.  We cannot be neutral. The sands in the hourglass are running out quickly

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

DIVINE WRATH AND THE LOVE OF GOD

No one likes to talk about divine judgment/wrath. We would rather talk about God’s love, mercy and grace. However, when one reads through the Bible one discovers in the teachings of Jesus the element of judgment is clearly prevalent, actually being a sign of God’s love. For divine love doesn’t dismiss sin, but deals with it in judgment. Since the Bible teaches the reality of divine wrath, it behooves us not to ignore the subject.

It must be remembered that God’s purpose in executing judgment is redemptive. While in judgment sin is punished, in His holy love judgment seeks to eradicate sin and establish holiness. God’s wrath is holiness’ response to sin. Holiness is repulsed at sin and must deal with it. Judgment is God’s holiness in opposition to sin.  God’s love redeems in the midst of judgment to establish his holiness.  Divine wrath is anchored in holy-love. His love is so great He at the cross dealt with sin in his Son. At the cross we see judgment upon sin and the redemptive love of God from sin. The judgment of God is an aspect of His love. God’s judgment and love are not opposed to one another, for there can exist no true love without judgment on sin.  God is not passive in the face of sin, but is actively opposed to evil. God’s wrath against sin arises out of His nature of holy-love.

Even from a casual reading of the Bible one discovers the inspired text teaches that found in the character of God is the expression of wrath. One learns from reading the first few chapters of Genesis that man was placed in a perfect environment, the Garden of Eden, and walked in harmony with his holy and loving Creator. In time man, by his own choice, deviated from God’s moral order and sin entered the world. As result of man’s deliberate rebellion, division, disease, devastation, and death made their entrance upon the earth. Not only was man cursed by sin, all creation was thrown out of balance and groans in anguish (Romans 8:22).  Because God is holy and created man and all creation to function within His established holy and moral order, when that balance was violated the fall of man and a fallen creation resulted, and it threw our existence on earth out of kilter.

The widespread effect of the fallenness of humanity, resulted in the expression of God’s “wrath” being manifest against “fallenness.” How was/is God’s wrath expressed? While theologians may use different terminology and categorize the expression of God’s wrath differently, this writer for simplification divides the expression of Divine wrath into four categories: (1) wrath as cause and effect of violating of God’s holiness and moral order; (2) wrath in the character and nature of God who actively  opposes sin; (3) wrath as the consuming outpouring of God’s judgment upon unrepentant sin and sinners during the Great Tribulation; and (4) wrath in Christ’s great work on the cross.

First, wrath as cause and effect of violating of God’s holiness and moral order. God’s holiness is the standard of all that is morally right and wrong. Man has failed to give the Creator His rightful place in his life and has clearly defied His holiness and His moral order. When we violate God’s standards it sets in motion hostile consequences from the effect of human sin. C.H. Dodd and A.T. Hanson are major proponents of God’s wrath as the cause and effect of living contrary to divine law. They describe the wrath of God as “an inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe…. as the effects or consequences of sin” [1]

In other words, when we defy God’s holiness and moral order, adverse consequences inevitably occur.   When one lives in direct violation of God’s divine law, they will negatively experience the “inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe.”

Second, wrath in the character and nature of God who actively opposes sin. While there is a sense in which all moral and natural calamities is an expression of God’s wrath in terms of the cause and effect of sin, His wrath is much more. God’s wrath can’t be reduced to simply the impersonal cause and effect of sin. The Apostle John tells us that God is love (I Jh 4:8). Can love and wrath reside together in God’s nature? The love of God and the wrath of God are not in contradiction, though there is a tension between them. For God is not just love, but holy-love at war with sin. The love of God will be seen as anemic unless seen in the light of God’s holiness and his hatred toward sin. Hanson says it well, “Absolute love implies absolute purity and absolute holiness: an intense burning light…. Unless God detests sin and evil with great loathing, He cannot be a God of Love.” [2]

The Bible clearly teaches God’s wrath is His expression of divine hostility to all that is sinful and opposes His holy-love. Seeing that sinful humanity abides under God’s opposition (wrath) to all that is evil which arises out of His very nature (John 3:36), P.T.  Forsyth insightfully writes, “The love of God is not more real than the wrath of God. If we spoke less about God’s love and spoke more about His holiness, more about His judgment, we should say much more when we speak of His love.” [3]  Forsyth continues, “There is no real intimacy with the gospel which does not bring a new sense of God’s holiness, and it may be long before we realize that the same holiness that condemns is that which saves. There is no new insight into the Cross which does not bring, whatever else come with it, a deeper sense of the solemn holiness of the love that meets us there.”  [4]

There can be no love of God that is not holy, His wrath being His revulsion to evil and all that opposes Him. God’s wrath is rejection of sinfulness and vindication of his holy nature. If one rejects God’s wrath, one cannot fully understand His love. An awareness of the wrath of God creates enhanced gratitude for Hs love. In wrath God is active in opposing everything that threatens His holiness, and He is active in His purpose to lead humanity to embrace the Holy. J.I. Packer has written, “God’s wrath is a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil.” [5] The active wrath of God against evil debunks moral relativism, and reveals to us that right and wrong objectively exists and points us to the consequences of our actions and need of repentance.

The Bible teaches us that God is actively involved in His creation and there are times when He brings about judgment and actively expresses His wrath through circumstances and situations in order to bring men to repentance. In such incidents God’s active wrath is an act of love to persuade men to repent of their sin which separates them from the His grace and mercy. God can and does use judgment in order to  bring wayward sinners unto Himself and bring about purposes which are beyond our finite minds to grasp.

Third, wrath as the consuming outpouring of God’s judgment upon unrepentant sin and sinners during the Great Tribulation. There are basically two Greek words used in the NT to denote God’s divine anger or wrath: θυμός (thumos) found 18 times in NT and ỏργή (orge) found 36 times. While there are times the two are used interchangeably, there seems to be a distinction between the two words. Some scholars deny there is a distinction [6], but orge speaks of God’s wrath as a present reality, a steadfast opposition against sin, while thumos refers more to eschatological judgment as found in Revelation (Rev 12:12; 14:8, 10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 18:3; 19:5). [7]   Orgē suggests a more settled or abiding emotion, a passionate yet controlled opposition to all that is evil (Jh 3:36); while Θυμός (thumos) speaks of a burning, blistering, boiling-over and fierce anger, a passionate wrath that spills over like a volcano, as seen in Revelation and speaks of God pouring out His righteous wrath in the Great Tribulation on unrepentant sin and sinners who have refused His grace and love. [8]

Even though such fierce judgements are experienced during the Great Tribulation, it says of many hardened in their sin, “They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds” (Rev. 16:11). Even in the outpouring of wrath (thumos), God’s fierce opposition to sin is an act of love for the redemptive purpose of restoring holiness and moral order in a fallen world.

Judgements that occur from the inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe as the consequences of sin are only a foretaste of events more horrific to come as revealed in the book of Revelation. The judgments of Revelation should arouse and alert our hearts to look for the return of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Fourth, wrath in Christ’s great work on the cross. In the Act of the cross God has provided for humanity a remedy for sin and holiness’ judgment upon sin. The cure is found in Jesus Christ, who on the cross bore the full weight of our sin and all our fallenness entails. Since divine holiness responds and reacts to sin in judgment, human sin requires an atonement. God has dealt with sin in Christ. Paul writes, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses [sins] to them” (2 Cor 5:19). On the cross God not only provided the Sacrifice for our sins, in Christ He was the Sacrifice. On the cross we see both God’s love and God’s wrath.  On the cross our sin was dealt with, and grace is extended to all who will come and kneel before the finished work of Christ and receive God’s redemptive provision. It is at the cross we grasp the horror of our sin and holiness’ judgment against sin, but in worshipful thanksgiving we see demonstrated the vastness of God’s loving grace in His provision for our sin.

While we are all fallen, broken, defiant sinners deserving of the wrath of God, but He in His great mercy performed a divine transaction whereby our sin was transferred to Christ who received the wrath of the Father which we deserved, so that those who repent of their sin can find free pardon and forgiveness. Now that is the Good News!

While man’s finite mind may find it difficult to reconcile God’s divine wrath and divine love, there is no need to reconcile two friends. Let us not reject but affirm the doctrine of God’s wrath, for if we do not, we strip God’s love of its Biblical balance and force. When sin and divine wrath are taken seriously, highlighted is the enormous cost God’s holy-love paid to secure our redemption. Understanding the two-siding coin of Divine love and wrath results in one exclaiming, “O, what a Savior!”

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] C.H. Dodd, Romans, 1959, 22;  A.T. Hanson, The Wrath of the Lamb, 1957, 69,110,126,186,197.

[2] Hanson, The Wrath of the Lamb, 192-94.

[3] P.T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, 1910, 73.

[4] Forsyth, The Soul of Prayer, “The Vicariousness of Prayer, Chapter VI,” 1916, 71-82.

[5] J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 1970, 151.

[6] D.E. Whiteley, The Theology of St. Paul, 1966, 69.

[7] Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol 12, 1991, 476; Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, 1986, 63-64.

[8] Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 1965, 179-183; Rogers and Rogers, Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 1998, 636, 639, 641-42, 644, 646.

HARDNESS OF HEART AND THE DANGER OF BEING HARDENED IN HARDNESS

Have you ever wondered why some people are bent on making wrong choices or why some national “leaders” seem to be incapable of making a decision that is anything other than a decision that embraces a culture of death or embraces abnormal morality?  It is as if the course they are on is unalterable or irreversible and they can do other.  As I heard a person once say, “I knew the choices I was making were wrong and harmful, but I could not alter the path I was on. The dye had been cast and I could not reverse my actions neither did I want, too.”

The story of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart has much relevance in regard to where we are in our nation today.  The story gives us an understanding of human responsibility and of God’s sovereignty, particularly as it relates to His work of hardening the hearts of those who continually harden their hearts against Him and suppress the truth.

We know the story all too well. Moses approaches the Pharaoh of Egypt with the request to let the Hebrew people go who had been in slavery for 400 years. Of course, Pharaoh refuses to do so, even though ten plagues are sent as judgments for his refusal to let the Hebrew children go. Only after the last plague, which resulted in the death of Pharaoh’s son, does Pharaoh reluctantly let them go. While the Scriptures clearly tell us God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, God’s hardening was solely a response to Pharaoh’s prior self-hardening.  The ultimate reason God hardened Pharaoh’s heart was that Pharaoh first hardened his own heart. God’s further hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was judicial in response to Pharaoh repeatedly hardening his own heart.

As one reads the account in the Book of Exodus the general flow of the narrative presents Pharaoh’s self-hardening mainly at the beginning and God’s hardening mainly at the end. God’s justice in hardening Pharaoh’s heart is in response to Pharaoh’s self-hardening.  We see both human responsibility and God’s sovereignty throughout the narrative.  There are many verses dealing with Pharaoh’s personal response to Moses’ request to let the Hebrew people go. Ex 7:13 Pharaoh’s heart become hard; Ex 7:14 Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; Ex 7:22 Pharaoh’s heart became hard; Ex 8:15 [Pharaoh] hardened his heart; Ex 8:19 Pharaoh’s heart was hard; Ex 8:32 Pharaoh hardened his heart; Ex 9:7 his heart was unyielding. Pharaoh continually hardened his heart until it set-up like concrete to where the course he was on became irreversible. It was then the sovereignty of God further hardened Pharaoh in his own sinful defiance.

Walt Kaiser observes the following concerning the hardening of Pharaoh: “In all there are ten places where ‘hardening’ of Pharaoh is ascribed to God (4.21; 7.3; 9.12; 10.1, 20, 27; 11.10; 14.4, 8, 17). But it must be stated just as firmly that Pharaoh hardened his own heart in another ten passages (7.13, 14, 22; 8.15, 19, 32; 9.7, 34, 35; 13.15). Thus the hardening was as much Pharaoh’s own act as it was the work of God. Even more significant is the fact that Pharaoh alone was the agent of the hardening in the first sign and in all the first five plagues. Not until the sixth plague was it stated that God actually moved in and hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9.12), as he had warned Moses in Midian that he would have to do (4.21).”

Yes, God sovereignly acted in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, yet we also see the clear responsibility of Pharaoh in the matter, as he hardens his own heart.   While Pharaoh was totally responsible for the hardening of his heart, the Bible teaches God’s justice often is meted out by Him further hardening man’s heart in his own hardness which he has chosen. When one continually suppresses the truth there comes a time when they are turned over to the consequences of their own hardened heart.

When we see those in “leadership” positions continually making decisions that radically go against, not only biblical teaching, but against commonsense, common moral decency, and centuries of proper protocol, and common consensus of what is morally right and wrong, we scratch our heads and say, “How can anyone make a decision like that?” It is because they have become hardened in their own morally bankrupt heart, so much so that the concrete has hardened in their suppression of the truth. In God’s sovereignty he has turned them over to their own hardened heart to where the course they are on is now set like a flint.

But let me add, in God further hardening Pharaoh’s heart, God revealed His own overriding master plan, by which He not only copes with man’s rebellion but turns it into an occasion for the Lord to display both His righteousness in judgment and his grace in redemption. Even in the hour in which we live when we see the hardened heart of man exercising evil edicts that further embrace a culture of death and a plunge society into deeper moral depravity, God in His  sovereign timing will display both his righteous judgment and His saving grace. Let us never forget the main reason for a hardened heart lies not with God, but with a rebellious heart that suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.

We are not responsible for the choices of others, but only our own. God called Pharaoh to humble himself and acknowledge the God of Heaven as Sovereign of the universe, yet he refused to do so and continually hardened his heart. Men today, like Pharaoh, may try to redefine good and evil, yet in their suppression of the truth they are hardening their own hearts and setting out on a path that will only find their hearts further hardened. That is the danger of a hardened heart, that it will become  hardened in its hardness.

Let us earnestly pray in the day in which we live that our hearts will be sensitive to hear the Lord’s voice and continually stay pliable to follow Him unreservedly. And not knowing where one who makes ill-advised choices and decisions are on in their march toward Accounting Day before God, let us pray the Lord will change their hearts before it is eternally too late.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

DOES REVELATION 3:5 TEACH ONE CAN LOSE THEIR SALVATION?

May I say at the outset, I believe that salvation is all of Divine grace (God’s unmerited favor to sinful, undeserving man) from beginning to end. In regard to the matter of salvation, the words of Jesus are emphatic, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Jesus who saved us possesses the power to keep us. Scripture clearly teaches that salvation is a work of grace, is dependent on God’s grace, and is secure in God’s grace. Now if it is possible for one to lose that which is of grace, then ultimately salvation is not of grace but is dependent on one’s works.  And the Scripture is clear, no man can be saved by works of righteousness which they have done (Titus 3:5). While fruit or works are proof of the genuineness  of one’s profession, works can never earn or secure salvation.

Those who contend it is possible to for one to lose their salvation, will often turn to the words of Jesus to the church at Sardis, found in Revelation 3:5, as a proof text that a saved person can have their name blotted out of the Book of Life even after it has been written there by the blood of Jesus. Jesus is addressing the believers at Sardis and assures the few who are remaining faithful that He “will not blot out [their] name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess [their] name before my Father, and before his angels.”  Now the question is, does Revelation 3:5 teach/imply that someone can lose their salvation? In other words, can someone be saved one day, have their names written in the Book of Life, and then at some future day have their name blotted out?

Let us examine what Jesus is seeking to say to the Sardis Christians. Is Revelation 3:5 a verse which issues a warning about losing one’s salvation or does the verse set forth a promise that one’s salvation is secure?

The context and focus in Revelation 3:5 are not about one losing their salvation, but on the assurance one is secure in Christ!  In the Greek text it is a strong double negative meaning “I will  not, no never blot out…”  Also, it  is in a future tense, meaning it will not be blotted out in the future. The verse has nothing to do with the possibility of what one could lose, but it has everything to do with giving assurance that one’s name is secure in the Book of Life and will not be erased!

In the first century, Christians who were loyal and faithful to Christ were under constant threat of being branded political and social rebels of the Roman Empire. If they were branded as enemies and insurgents of the Roman state, they would then be stripped of their citizenship, their names being blotted out of the citizenry roles. In light of the fact that many in Sardis might lose their Roman citizenship because of their allegiance to Christ and have their names blotted from the rolls of earthly citizenry, the Lord assures them  their names will not be erased from heaven’s citizenship roll.  Christ offers the believers at Sardis an eternal citizenship in the everlasting kingdom without fear of removal. While one’s name could be removed from a cities registry roll of citizens for reasons deemed legitimate by that city or imperial authorities, Christ is giving those first-century believes assurance that for their loyalty to Him their names were permanently inscribed in the Book of Life. As Robert Thomas notes, ” The promise here is positive, that these [Sardis believers] will not in any way have their names blotted out.”

Revelation 3:5 is given to Christians going through difficult times as an assuring promise.  The promise is directed toward believers, assuring them of their security in their salvation. The verse does not indicate or imply that God blots out anybody’s name out of the Book of Life. One who is saved and counted righteous in God’s records, and one who is changed and made into a child of God, a partaker of God’s nature, can be assured their salvation is secure in Christ. Notice this verse promises that God will NOT blot out one’s name.   Christ in seeking to comfort those who are striving to overcome the spreading paganism and imperial worship of the day, promises He will NOT blot out the believers names. We must not read into the verse more than it says. We must not add to the Bible. God said what He meant. Had He meant more, He would have said more. God does not say and does not mean that He will blot out the name of any child of His from the Book of Life. The verse speaks to assurance for the believer whose name IS written in the Book of Life.

Philip Schaff succinctly writes, “What we are told in Revelation 3:5 is, not that some names shall be blotted out of the Book of Life, but that  names shall NOT be blotted out.”  A true believer’s name shall not be erased from the roll or register of the citizens of the Kingdom of God. A believers name was put into the Book of Life by grace and it will be forever secured upon the heavenly parchments by grace.

Albert Barnes adds, “The expression ‘I will not blot out’ means, that the names would be found there on the great day of final account, and would be found there forever. It may be remarked, no one can have access to that Book but He who keeps it; therefore, there is the most positive assurance that the salvation of the redeemed is secure.”

Knowing our names are secure in the Book of Life should bring us great joy, for Jesus said, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Knowing we have received from Christ assurance that our names will NOT be blotted out of the Book of Life, should fill our hearts with such overflowing thankfulness. The verse is not a license to live as we please, but it should fill our spirits with such assurance we are compelled to live faithfully for Him in surrendered gratitude for His amazing saving grace.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan