February 2017 Bible Questions & Answers

Who or what is the devil?  Who created the devil and why does God allow him to have so much power?  Is he an evil spirit?  Why is he always referred to in the male gender?  Was the serpent in Genesis 3 the devil?

“Devil” comes from the Greek diabolos and literally means “slanderer” or “false accuser.”  The Bible gives the devil the name “Satan,” which in the original language is satanus and literally means “adversary,” in passages like Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 among others, which specifically cite Satan as the devil.

He is a person rather than a thing.  We know this because the Scriptures never talk of him as if he were a thing by using the term “it” to describe him.  Rather, they use the adjective referring to the male gender, “he,” to describe the devil.

Proverbs 30:5 says that “every word of God is tested,” and John 17:17 says that God’s Word is truth.  So when the Scriptures refer to the devil by the male gender, that shows us that Satan is male rather than female.

He is not human, but is an evil spirit.  There are several reasons why this is so.  We know that his life span surpasses our life spans because the Scriptures reveal that he was in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, and we also know that he is active today.  Also, the Bible tells us that he can take other forms such as the serpent in Genesis chapter 3.  While Genesis 3 doesn’t specifically call the serpent Satan, Paul tells the Christians at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 11:3 that he is afraid the serpent will lead them astray just as he did Eve, and John specifically calls the serpent Satan and the devil in Revelation 12:9.  Interestingly, Jesus refers to both Satan and evil spirits or demons in an interchangeable fashion in Matthew 12:22-28.  He was casting out evil spirits or demons, and the Pharisees said that he did so by the power of Beelzebub.  Jesus responded to this charge by saying, “…If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself…”  The reason evil spirits or demons are spoken of interchangeably with Satan is because he is over them.

Yet, even though his life span far surpasses ours, he is not eternal.  The Bible says in Colossians 1:16 – “For by him (Christ) ALL THINGS were created, IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH, VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE…”  That would include Satan.  Thus, Satan was created by God.  We don’t know much about his origins.  The possibility exists that he was originally an angel created during the week described in Genesis 1; if so he would have been among “the sons of God” or the angels mentioned in Job 38:7.  If he was created during creation week, then originally he was “very good” like everything else God created as said in Genesis 1:31 – “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

Some call Satan Lucifer due to what is said in the King James Version’s rendering of Isaiah 14:12 – “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!…”  Yet if one examines the context of verse 12, specifically verses 1-15 of Isaiah 14, you’ll see that Isaiah is actually talking about Babylon’s king and is making a prophecy about him.  Thus, if Isaiah 14’s Lucifer is to refer to Satan at all, it would only be in a figurative sense, if that.

In like manner, some look at Ezekiel 28:16-17 which says, “…I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God…Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.  I cast you to the ground…” as a reference to the origin of Satan.   However, the context of verses 11-19 of Ezekiel 28 shows that Ezekiel is actually talking about the king of the nation of Tyre, not Satan.  Thus, any application to the origin of Satan from Ezekiel 28 would be figurative at best.

All we know for certain is that Satan was condemned because of pride, something specifically stated in 1 Timothy 3:6.  We also know that God gave the human beings he created free will, as seen in Joshua 24:15 and 1 Kings 18:21 where Joshua and Elijah urge Israel to choose whether or not they will serve God.  We know that God tempts no one to do evil (James 1:13).  Thus, the only logical conclusion we can make based on the little information we have is that Satan also had free will to choose to obey or disobey God.  He chose to sin due to pride and was cast down.  The rest of his origins are not known to us, thus being part of the “secret things which belong to God” referred to in Deuteronomy 29:29.

As to why God allows Satan to have so much power, God does allow him power…but not as much as we think.  Job 2:1 records how Satan came among the sons of God, the angels, to “present himself before the Lord.”  That implies that Satan, even as outwardly rebellious as he is, ultimately is still subservient to God.  Consider this also.  Job 1:12 shows us that he could not harass Job without God’s permission.  In like manner, Jesus on one occasion told Peter that Satan made the demand to sift Peter like wheat (Lk. 22:31).  That shows us that Satan could not harass Peter without permission from God.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 10:13, which promises us that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear; that shows us that God doesn’t permit Satan to tempt us more than is possible for us to overcome.  The parable of the sower does teach that Satan, represented by the birds of that parable in Matthew 13:4, does have the power to snatch God’s Word from men’s heart, but only after those hearts were hardened by their owners.  There are other examples in the Bible which show the limits God has placed on the devil’s power.

One thing we must never forget is what Hebrews 2:14 tells us, that Christ through his death on the cross destroyed “the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”  Praise God for that!  Never forget this, brethren.  When Jesus died and was resurrected, Satan was bound.  How?  He was bound in the sense that he no longer rules the world.  Think about it.  Before Christ died on Calvary, mankind had no immediate forgiveness of their sins (He. 10:3-4; 9:15).

Before Christ’s sacrifice, we had no way to have our sins totally forgiven.  That means that Satan ruled in the world…but all that changed at Calvary.  When Christ died and was resurrected, he defeated Satan.  He destroyed him.  Revelation 20:1-2 depicts a figurative scene in which the devil is bound for a thousand years.  That’s not something that has yet to happen at some supposed rapture!  That happened at the cross when Jesus defeated Satan and limited his power even more than it already had been!

Those who become Christians today are immediately and totally forgiven of their sins, and that’s all through Christ and what he had done for us at Golgotha.  As faithful Christians, Satan no longer controls our lives because we walk in the light and Christ’s blood continually cleanses us (1 John 1:7).  He is bound, and his power is limited!

Why does God allow Satan the power that he has, like the power to tempt us to sin and bring hardship into our lives?  There are probably reasons that are kept secret from us – the “secret things which belong to God” (Deut. 29:29) – and there are probably reasons revealed to us in Scripture which I’m overlooking.  However, from what I have seen the Bible gives at least two reasons:

  1. God loves us, and he wants us to love him. The fact that he truly loves us and wants us to truly love him leaves no room for him to make us, his creation, into mindless puppets with no free will.  We have free will, as seen when Joshua told Israel to choose whom they will serve (Josh 24:15).  We can choose not to love him back.  Satan’s temptations provide us with that choice.  Yet God wants us to choose to love him back by obeying him and resisting Satan’s temptations.
  1. Read Hebrews 12:3-13. That passage teaches us that hardships which are in our lives – and that includes the hardships brought into our lives by Satan – can make us spiritually stronger if we allow them to do so.  If we are spiritually stronger, we obey God more and thus love him more.

Are God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit the same Person?

God is one (Dt. 4:35; 1 Cor. 8:4).  There is only one true Deity, and that is God.

That being said, the term “God” in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word Elohim, which is a plural word.  This is significant, because the one God described in the Bible is manifested or shown in three distinct personages.  That’s why God, or Elohim, said before creating man, “Let US make man in OUR image…” (Gen. 1:26).

The Bible shows that three distinct personages are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We are commanded to be baptized in their name, literally into their possession, in Matthew 28:19.  In Luke 3:22 we see all three Personages of Deity present at Jesus’ baptism:  Jesus, the Son being baptized; his heavenly Father calling him his Son from heaven, and the Holy Spirit descending on the Son in bodily form, like a dove.  In 2 Corinthians 13:14, Paul closes his letter by mentioning not only “the love of God,” but also “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”  So it is clear that the one true Deity of the Bible is manifested in three distinct Personages.

We are commanded to pray to God the Father (Matt. 6:9).  Our obedience to the Father’s will is a necessity in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21).  The Son of God on many occasions spoke directly to his Father (cf. Lk. 10:21 – “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…”).  Paul said that Christ, the Son, was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father (Rom. 6:4).

The Bible also speaks of God the Son, Who is also described as God the Word (John 1:1, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…”)  This of course refers to Jesus the Christ, who as mentioned earlier spoke to his Father (cf. John 17:1) and thus showed his distinctiveness from the Father.  Another verse which shows how the Father and Son are distinct from each other is Luke 10:22 – “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  Paul said of Jesus that he “was in the form of God” (Phil. 2:5-6), which backs up what John said about him, the Word, being God.

And then there is God the Holy Spirit.  We read of him right at the very beginning of creation, when even before Elohim created light it was said that “the Spirit of God” hovered over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2).  David spoke of the Holy Spirit of God in Ps. 51:11 when he entreated God to  “…take not your Holy Spirit from me.”  Christians are told that they must not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, and that it is by that same Holy Spirit that we are sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30).

The three – God the Father, God the Word or Son, and God the Holy Spirit – are one.  We see an example of how this is true when God the Son said, “I and my Father are one” (Jn. 10:30).  All three are Deity…the only Deity, the one Deity.

A good analogy to help us understand is this:  Consider H2O, water.  It appears to us in a liquid form, but take that liquid form of H2O and freeze it and it is no longer a liquid, but a solid (ice)…yet it is still H2O.  Put that solid in a sauna and turn the heat up and after a while it will no longer be either a solid or a liquid, but instead will be a gas (vapor)…but it is still H2O, nothing more or less.  The same can be said of Elohim, God.  The Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct from each other…yet all are still God, the only God.

What is “the book of Jashar” mentioned in Joshua 10:13?

“Jashar” is a Hebrew word which literally means “upright man” or “just man.”  The book of Jashar is mentioned not only in Joshua in the context of being another source of record of the episode of the sun standing still, but also in 2 Samuel 1:18 in the context of being another source of record of David’s song of mourning over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.

Inspired Scripture has been preserved by the providence of God so that we who lived thousands of years later could have it.  The same cannot be said of the book of Jashar.  All we know is that evidently it once existed and seemed to be one of the sources used by the authors of Joshua and Samuel.

Since it is said to record David’s song of poetry about the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, some believe it to be a book of poetry.  It is also thought that the reason Joshua mentioned it while talking about the sun miraculously standing still was to show readers who might be skeptical as to the veracity of that even that other people besides himself accepted and recorded it.  By basically pointing to the book of Jashar and saying, “You can read about it here too!”, he was authenticating the event.

Is God referencing constellations in Job 38?

Yes, he is.  Chapter 38 of Job tells us about how God talked to Job with the purpose of reminding Job about how small his own wisdom and power was when compared to that of God.   God starts this off in chapter 38 by first asking Job, “Where were you…” when I created the world and universe, and he goes into great descriptive detail concerning many aspects of nature and the universe in this chapter.

He specifically mentions both creating and supervising the constellations in chapter 38.  They’re first mentioned in a general sense as “the morning stars” (v. 7), but if you skip down to verses 31-32 you’ll see that he lists several of them specifically by name:

The Pleiades, also called the Seven Sisters.  Their more official name in astronomy circles is Messier 45 or M45.  This is the constellation which we can most easily see without a telescope.

Orion, which we’ve all probably heard of.  It’s one of the most recognizable constellations, seen best during winter evenings.  When I was driving out west a few days ago, I saw it very easily at night time, especially when I was out in the middle of nowhere with no street lights around.

God also mentions “the Mazzaroth.”  This is a Hebrew word which means “constellation.”  Some believe this might refer to the 12 zodiac signs:  Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn, Gemini, Libra, Aquarius, Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

He also mentions “the Bear.”  This would refer to either Ursa Major or Ursa Minor, or both.  Ursa Major is known as the Great Bear in astronomy, and Ursa Minor is known as the Little Bear.  The Big Dipper is part of Ursa Major; it’s actually the tail of the Great Bear.  The Little Dipper is part of Ursa Minor; it’s actually the tail of the Little Bear.  Polaris is the end of the tail of the Little Bear.

So yes, constellations are specifically mentioned in Job 38.

What is the “shadow of death” in Psalm 23?

You read of “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4.  Picture in your mind a dangerous valley.  This valley might have a lot of trees in it, heavily forested.  At night time predators could lie in wait in the shadows of these trees within this valley, looking for easy prey such as sheep.  The shepherd might have to lead his sheep through this dangerous valley in which death awaits them.  Yet the sheep are protected by the shepherd’s rod and staff, which would fight off any predators that might attack within this valley.

In like manner, we as Christians trust in God.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we will avoid trials and hardships in this life.  We too will have to pass through many dark valleys, including the last one which is death.  Yet we have no fear, because the Chief Shepherd is watching over us.  Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you, even to the end of the world” (Mt. 28:20).  Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).  The writer of Hebrews told us that Jesus said, “ ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”  Take comfort in this.

How did Adam become Eve’s husband?  Was there some sort of ceremony to declare them husband and wife?

There is no doubt that Adam and Eve were married.  She is referred to as “his wife” immediately after God created her.  In fact, Moses was inspired to give the reader a command concerning marriage right after giving us the record of her creation (Gen. 2:21-25).  Jesus later quotes this same passage while talking about marriage and how it is supposed to be something which man does not separate (Matt. 19:3-6).

Yet there is no record in the Bible of any kind of wedding ceremony in the Garden of Eden to consecrate Adam and Eve’s marital union.  From a history standpoint, wedding ceremonies originated in the mind of man sometime after Eden.  We can read of a wedding ceremony Jesus attended in John 2.  However, we never read in the Bible that wedding ceremonies were commanded by God as something that is required in order to make a marriage legitimate.

The only guidance the Bible gives regarding what is necessary to start a marriage is that the laws of the governing authorities must be obeyed (Rom. 13:1-7) as long as they do not violate Scripture (Acts 5:29).  Those laws are different depending on the nation or culture in which one lives.  In America today, one is not legally married unless one has a marriage license.  Therefore, God would require a couple to obtain a marriage license in order to get married.  Anything else such as a wedding ceremony is optional.  I would advise engaged couples to remember as they plan the start of their marriage that a wedding is only one day, whereas a marriage is a lifetime.  Don’t make the mistake of putting all your focus on making that one day special so that you are not prepared to make every day afterwards special as a married couple.

Is one sin more grievous to God than another?  Is adultery, homosexuality, or murder worse than lying, stealing, or gossiping?  Is there an unforgivable sin?

Generally speaking, the Bible does speak of sins being greater than others.  For example, in John 19:11 Jesus told Pilate that Caiaphas’s sin of delivering him over to Pilate was “greater” than Pilate’s sin of condemning Jesus to death without cause.  This is probably because Pilate, a Gentile ignorant and disdainful of the Jewish religion, would not have had any reason to know Who Jesus was.  Caiaphas, however, was High Priest, and so he should have known from his deep study of all the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament Who Jesus really was, but as Paul brought out in 2 Corinthians 3:14, he and his fellow Jewish leaders had refused to believe due to their rebellious hearts.

Another example is found in Ezekiel 23:11, when the capital of the southern nation of Judah, Jerusalem, was figuratively called “more corrupt” than her sister capital city of Samaria in the northern kingdom of Israel.  Over in the New Testament, you’ll remember that Paul told Timothy that the one who doesn’t provide for his own household is called “worse” than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8).

Paul also told Timothy that it is possible for evil people to “go on from bad to worse” (2 Tim. 3:13).  That shows there are varying levels of sinfulness.

I’m also reminded of how Jesus denounced certain cities of his day for rejecting him as the Messiah in spite of the miracles he had performed amongst them to show them he was God’s Son.  He told them “it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matt. 11:20-24).  He also used a parable which talked about a servant who “knew his mater’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will.”  This servant would receive a “severe beating,” as opposed to the one who did not know that he was disobeying his master’s will and got a “light beating” (Lk. 12:47-48).  This shows there will be worse punishment for some than for others.

This brings to mind how in this life, some sins have worse consequences than others.  For example, 1 John 3:15 says that from a spiritual standpoint the one who hates his brother is just as much a murderer as the one who actually physically takes someone’s life with malice.  However, the one who actually takes a physical life will have worse consequences in this life than the one who hates his brother in terms of immediate consequences (jail, execution).

With all that being said, we must never forget that any sin whatsoever is serious in itself, because the wages or consequences of each and every sin not repented of is death (Rom. 6:23), specifically eternity in hell which is called the second death (Rev. 21:8).  That means that any and all sin has the potential to keep us from heaven, even those sins which we might consider minor (like lying – Rev. 21:8).

With that in mind, we should seriously re-think the notion that one sin is “greater” than another from an eternal perspective.  All sin, no matter what, will keep one out of heaven for all eternity if they are not repented of.

This leads me to the question about the unforgivable sin.  The unforgivable sin is defined in Scripture as blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:22-30).

When Jesus said that blaspheming the Spirit would be a sin which would not be forgiven, he said that in the context of the Pharisees attributing Jesus’ miraculous power to cast out demons to Satan.  Matthew’s account of this event says that Jesus performed these miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:28).  Therefore, when his enemies saw him perform these miracles by the power of the Spirit and were so  stubbornly hard-hearted to refuse to believe that they attributed what the Spirit was doing to Satan, they were showing that their hearts were so calloused that there was no way they were going to choose to believe in Jesus, repent, and follow him.  Without doing that, they would lose all hope of the forgiveness which only comes through Jesus.

Can one blaspheme the Holy Spirit and not be forgiven today? Not in the same sense that Jesus’ enemies did since miracles were involved back then and miracles do not take place today.  However, consider this.  The Word of God is called the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) because its authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit, thus making the Scriptures basically a message from the Spirit.

When we stubbornly and unrepentantly disobey God’s Word, will we be forgiven?  The Hebrew writer says no (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31).  By unrepentantly refusing to abide by the Scriptures which came from the Spirit, we reject and speak against the Spirit.  By unrepentantly disobeying the Bible, we have no hope of forgiveness…not until if and when we repent.

1 John 5:16-18 says, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life – to those who commit sins that do not lead to death.  There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

The sin which doesn’t lead to eternal death in hell is the sin of which we repent and are forgiven.  The sin which leads to death is the one of which we refuse to repent and thus will not be forgiven.  If we are not going to repent of a sin, it’s a waste of time to pray that we be forgiven.  By stubbornly holding on to it we are blaspheming the Spirit who gave us the command we are disobeying.

God expects us who have been born of him, born again, to not let sin reign in our lives.  We will sin, but we will not keep on sinning deliberately and unrepentantly.  Rather, he wants us to confess our sins and repent of them so that forgiveness keeps on coming.