July 2017 Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency, the Holy Spirit interceding in our prayers, the beasts of Revelation 13, the gospel being proclaimed to the entire world in the first century

If most people don’t believe in God, then why do they put “IN GOD WE TRUST” on money?

A Gallup poll taken just one year ago shows that about 89% of Americans say they believe in God.  Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1944, when 96% responded that they believed in God.

Twelve years later, Congress passed a law in a joint resolution that the phrase “In God We Trust” must appear on American currency; they also passed legislation making the phrase the nation’s motto.  President Eisenhower approved both measures on July 30, 1956.   The phrase first appeared on paper money on October 1, 1957.  (It had earlier appeared on currency in 1864.)

50 years later in 2006, the Senate reaffirmed “In God We Trust” as the official national motto of the U.S.  Five years later in 2011, the House of Representatives passed an additional resolution reaffirming the phrase as the official motto of the U.S. in a 396-9 vote.

According to a 2003 joint poll by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup, 90% of Americans support the inscription “In God We Trust” on U.S. coins.  As of April 1, 2016,  17 states offer an “In God We Trust” specialty license plate.  Georgia and Florida even offer the option of “In God We Trust” replacing the County Name on the license plate.

So it seems that a large majority in this country do in fact hold some form of faith in God.  Perhaps with some it might not be what the Bible calls a living faith due to it not being backed up by works of obedience to God’s revealed will in His Word (James 2:14-26).  Nevertheless, the reason most of our politicians seem to either outright favor or at least put up with the phrase “In God We Trust” being on our currency is because the majority of the population – and thus the majority of the voters – are at least willing to say to pollsters that they believe in God and favor it being on our currency.

Please explain Romans 8:26-27.  How does the Holy Spirit intercede in our prayer lives?

This passage says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in our prayers because we do not know how to pray.  How does the Spirit do this?

Some say He is “kind of in the middle” between us and God, and intercedes for us in the sense that when we pray, He more or less “edits” our prayers when we do not pray for what we should pray for.

This is incorrect for several reasons:

First of all, Christ, not the Holy Spirit, is the “one” mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5)

Secondly, Christ, not the Spirit, makes intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).

Thirdly, the Father knows what we will pray before we actually pray it (Matt. 6:8), and therefore does not need the Spirit to “interpret” or “edit” our prayers.

So how does the Holy Spirit intercede on our behalf in our prayers?

He aids our knowing how to pray through the Scriptures.  The Scriptures come from the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21), and it is the Scriptures that teach us everything there is to know about prayer (cf. Matt. 6:7-15), including correcting us when our prayers are wrong (cf. James 4:1-3).

Thus, the Spirit “intercedes” in our prayers in the sense that the Spirit-inspired Word of God teaches us to pray.  Otherwise, we would not know how to pray (or even to pray) at all.

What do the beasts in Revelation 13 represent?

When studying Revelation, we must remember that the book is “signified” (Rev. 1:1, KJV), meaning that it is a book of symbols which should be taken figuratively, not literally.  We must search the Scriptures to find their correct meanings (2 Tim. 4:2; Eph. 4:15; cf. John 17:17).

Thus, we must take the two beasts of chapter 13 to be figuratively symbolic of something.  While figuring out what they symbolize, we must do our best to have a biblical reason for the meanings of these symbols rather than arbitrarily applying any meaning we might like in order to fit our interpretation.

To determine the meaning of the first beast of Revelation 13, we must first go to the book of Daniel. Daniel had seen a vision of four great beasts coming up out of the sea (Dan. 7:1-12).  Afterwards, “One like a Son of Man” would be given an everlasting kingdom (vs. 13-14).

Daniel had asked for the interpretation of his vision and was told that the four beasts represent four kings (vs. 15-17).  He was then told that God’s saints would take possession of the everlasting kingdom and possess it forever, a reference to the church (v. 18; cf. Col. 1:13).

The saints would possess this eternal kingdom during the time of the fourth beast (Dan. 7:23, 27).  Daniel had asked about this fourth beast because it was exceedingly terrible (v. 19).  This fourth beast represents the fourth kingdom or world-wide empire that would come after Daniel’s time (v. 23).  The fourth worldwide empire to come after Daniel was the Roman Empire because Daniel lived during the Babylonian Empire.  Persia and Greece followed Babylon, with Rome being the fourth.  It was during the time of the Roman Empire that Christ established His eternal kingdom which was the church.

Thus, from Daniel we see that the “beast” was a symbolic term used to represent governmental forces which rule in this world and persecute God’s people.  Therefore, the first-century Christians who were the original readers of Revelation would have applied the meaning of oppressive civil governments such as the Roman Empire to the symbol of the first beast which rises out of the sea in Revelation 13.  Likewise, Christians today can apply to the symbol of the first beast of Revelation 13 any civil government that would oppress Christianity today.

The second “beast” in Revelation 13 rises out of the earth (13:11-18).  Being a beast, we can apply the interpretation of civil government to it also.  Additionally, we read that this beast had the power to force people to make an image to the first beast and worship it (13:15).  It is called a false prophet later in Revelation (16:13; 19:20).  Therefore, this beast not only controlled the physical actions of men but also their spiritual worship also.   It would be a false religious power closely aligned with civil government.  History would show this to most likely be the Roman Catholic Church which started to come into existence and power not long after John wrote Revelation and has always been closely aligned with various civil governments.

Much more could be said and needs to be said about the interpretation behind the symbolism of both of these beasts in Revelation 13 (as well as the book of Revelation as a whole.)  Accordingly, I’m working on preparing a series of sermons on the book of Revelation which I hope to begin preaching before the calendar year is out.

Paul said that the gospel had been proclaimed to everyone in the world (Col. 1:23).  How was that possible two thousand years ago?

Jesus had prophesied that the gospel would be proclaimed throughout the whole world in the almost four decades between his death and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in AD 70 (Matt. 24:14; cf. 24:1-34).

About a little more than a decade before Rome sacked Jerusalem, Paul wrote letters to the churches at Rome, Colossae, and Thessalonica stating that the gospel had in fact been proclaimed to all creation (Rom. 10:18; Col. 1:5-6, 23; 1 Thess. 1:8).

How was that possible without the use of airplanes, Internet, telephones, trains, automobiles, etc.?  Consider Acts 19:9-10, which states that Paul and other Christians “reasoned daily…for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”

Asia – Asia Minor, now modern-day Turkey, Iran, and Iraq – was an area around the size of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma combined.  It took only two years of daily evangelistic efforts by not only him but all the other disciples in his area to bring the gospel to everyone living in that large area.

The first church of Christ in Jerusalem started by growing from 120 to 3,000 in one day (Acts 2:41).  It then grew every single day (Acts 2:47) so that the number soon rose to 5,000 (Acts 4:4).  It continued to “multiply” (Acts 6:6).  Even after persecution caused it to scatter (Acts 8:1), the church as a whole in that region again “multiplied” (Acts 9:31).  A little over a decade later, the Jerusalem church was said to once again have “thousands” of believers (Acts 21:20).  Why?  Because all of them went around telling others about Jesus (Acts 8:4).

All of them were involved in evangelism, not just a select few (Acts 8:4).  In some form or fashion, using whatever abilities and talents God had given them (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:14-27; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), all of them were involved in the work of evangelism…and the church grew as a result (Eph. 4:15-16).  Not only that, but the gospel spread very far geographically in a relatively short period of time as Christians talked to everyone they knew about Jesus, converted more Christians, and then those Christians talked to everyone they knew about Jesus, converted more Christians, and then those Christians continued to do the same…

Do the math.  If every single member of a congregation of 125 Christians brings the gospel to just two different souls each week, 250 different people would receive the gospel by the end of the week.  If this is done every week for one year, then 13,000 people would get the gospel.  65,000 by five years.  130,000 by ten years.  325,000 by 25 years…if only 125 Christians shared the gospel with two different people each week.

What would happen if 125 Christians shared the gospel with five different people each week for 25 years?  (812,500) Ten different people each week for 25 years?  (1,625,000)  And then add to that formula the fact that conversions would be happening (1 Cor. 3:6), and those new converts would also be talking to others about Christ (1 Tim. 2:2).  Can you see how the early church could easily reach the whole world with the gospel in almost 40 years?

Remember something else also.  We read that the evangelist Philip was “carried away” by the Holy Spirit after baptizing the Ethiopian in the desert, and “found himself” at a different place  where he then started preaching the gospel again (Acts 8:39-40).  This could mean that God miraculously transported Philip from one place to another.  Thus, the possibility exists that during the first century God could have miraculously provided travel assistance to Christians in their efforts to reach the whole world with the gospel.

So who is to say that God did not miraculously bring first century Christian evangelists to mission fields on this planet far from Israel and Rome during the almost 40 years between Jesus’ death and Jerusalem’s destruction?   It is not out of the question, considering we see how He helped Philip.

Matthew traveled to Ethiopia before he was killed in AD 60.  Mark was burned in Egypt.  Jude was crucified in Iraq in AD 72.  Bartholomew was said to travel to “heathen nations” (possibly the Orient) before being killed by the sword or by clubs.  Thomas went to India before being killed there by a spear.  Simon the Zealot, it was said, traveled to parts of Africa and even to Britain before being killed by pagans in AD 74.

It is certainly possible that these Christians who traveled to far away places converted others, who themselves traveled to other places and preached to others, who in turn did the same…in the process covering the entire globe with the good news as the New Testament said took place.

With our modern means of travel (cars, airplanes) and communication (the Internet)…what are we doing to bring the gospel to as many people as we possibly can?