May 2018 Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  Revelation 7:14’s “great tribulation,” women’s scriptural role in evangelism, how God can forget our sins when He is omniscient, dancing, why Jesus asked “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”, the age of accountability, how to start a congregation of Christ’s church

Do we currently live in the “great tribulation” referenced in Revelation 7:14?

The key to determining the symbolic meaning behind the “great tribulation” in Revelation 7:14 is to notice the biblical definition given to the ones clothed in the white robes (vs. 9-17).

The heavenly elder told John that the ones clothed in the white robes not only came out of the great tribulation, but also washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (v. 14). They are said to be before the throne of God, serving Him day and night in His temple, and “He that sits on the throne” (Jesus) dwells among them” (v. 15). Spiritually speaking, they no longer hunger or thirst (v. 16) because the Lamb on the throne, Jesus, feeds them and leads them to living fountains of water, and God wipes all tears from their eyes (v. 17).

Christians are the only ones to whom all of these descriptions apply. We washed our spiritual robes white in the blood of the Lamb when we were baptized for the forgiveness of our sins and then continually confess and repent of our sins (Rev. 7:14; cf. Acts 22:16; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:7-9).

Christians are the ones who come before the throne of God in prayer (Rev. 7:15; cf. Heb. 4:16). We make up the church which is His temple, in which we serve Him day and night (Rev. 7:15; cf. 1 Cor. 3:16). Jesus is always in our midst (Rev. 7:15; cf. Matt. 18:20; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 2:11-12).

The Lord spiritually feeds and waters Christians with the living bread and water of His Spirit-inspired Word (Rev. 7:16; cf. Matt. 5:6; John 4:13-14; 6:35; 7:37-39). He protects us from the scorching heat of sin, as Isaiah prophesied (Rev. 7:16; cf. Is. 4:6; 49:10). He is our Shepherd (Rev. 7:17; cf. 1 Pet. 5:4; Heb. 13:20; John 10:1-18), feeding us with the Word, leading us to the life-giving fountains of water found in the Word. It is Christians whose eyes God wipes free of all tears by saving them from sin, as also prophesied by Isaiah (Rev. 7:17; cf. Is. 25:8).

Since Christians are the ones being symbolized in Rev. 7:9-17, then it is Christians who have come out of “the great tribulation” when they washed their robes and made them white in the Lamb’s blood (Rev. 7:14), i.e., when they obeyed the gospel. When we obeyed the gospel, we were set free from being enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:17-18). Thus, “the great tribulation” spoken of in Revelation 7:14 symbolizes the time in our lives when we were spiritually enslaved to sin before being set free from that tribulation and being washed clean of our sins by becoming Christians.

If women are commanded to be silent and submissive, but we are all called to teach the Word, in what ways would it be acceptable for women to minister to the gospel? Who should women minister to? Would it be sinful for a Christian woman to have a blog or utilize other social media platforms to spread the gospel?

The command for women to “quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness” and not “teach or exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:11-12) is limited to Christian women in their relationship to Christian men within the church. We know this because Paul said that what he was writing, which would include 1 Timothy 2:11-12, was “so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:14-15).

Thus, it would certainly be proper for a Christian woman to minister to the gospel via evangelism, including evangelizing/teaching non-Christian men through any available and expedient means (including blogs and other social media platforms), since the men they would be teaching are not yet Christian and thus by definition would not be part of the church.

How does God forget the sins we’ve repented of if He is all-knowing?

God is all-knowing (Ps. 139:1-4; Prov. 15:3; Matt. 10:30). God is also all-powerful (Jer. 32:17). Being all-powerful, He has the power to choose to limit His knowledge if such is His will. We see this when He “tested” Abraham by commanding him to offer his son, Isaac, up as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:1ff). A “test” by definition implies a certain lack of knowledge; a teacher tests students in order to find out how much of his lessons they have retained.

When God saw that Abraham was going to obey Him even to the point of sacrificing his own son, God said, “…now I know that you fear God” (v. 12), implying that before that God did not know. Why, since He is all-knowing? Because He chose not to know and, being all-powerful, thus limited His knowledge in that particular area.

So when God promised Christians that “I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12), we can trust that in spite of His omniscience, His omnipotence makes it possible for Him to choose to forget forevermore our sins which He has forgiven.

Is dancing a sin?

Not all dancing is sinful. When Israel saw that they had been fully liberated from Egyptian bondage after the Red Sea swallowed up Pharaoh’s army, their women danced (Ex. 15:20). David danced before the Lord when the ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 7:14-15), and when his wife Michal scorned him because he did so it is implied that God punished her (2 Sam. 7:16, 20-23). God said that there is a time for everything, including a time to dance (Eccl. 3:4). When the prodigal son repented and returned, the father and the rest of the house celebrated with dancing (Lk. 15:25), and the older brother who disapproved was rebuked for his attitude (vs. 25-32).

However, there is a certain kind of dancing that is sinful. The New Testament condemns as a “work of the flesh” a sin called “lasciviousness” or “sensuality,” and says that those who practice it as well as “things like it…will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). Lasciviousness has to do with several attitudes and actions, most of which having sexual overtones in nature and suggesting a disregard for public decency.

Concerning its relevance to dancing, lasciviousness is defined in part by Thayer as “indecent bodily movements” and “unchaste handling of males and females.” It is undoubtedly this kind of dancing done by Herodias’ daughter that so aroused the lust of Herod Antipas that he unwisely promised her whatever she wanted, resulting in the death of John the Baptist (Matt. 14:6-10).

Thus, all dancing is not sinful; only the kind of indecent, unchaste, overly sexual kinds of dancing done between unmarried men and women would be considered sinful in the sight of God.

When Jesus cried out, “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”, was He genuinely unaware?

It is extremely unlikely that He was unaware of the reason God forsook Him at the cross, considering that for all of His life He and His Father were one (John 10:30, 38; 17:21-23) and He was very much aware of exactly why He had to go to the cross (John 3:16; Lk. 24:25-27; cf. Is. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21).

His cry which asked God why He had forsaken Him was a quote from a Messianic prophesy about the death of the Messiah on a cross (Ps. 22:1ff); it was done to show that the prophecies about the death of the Messiah were being fulfilled.

What’s the age of accountability?

The term “age of accountability” is a man-made term used to describe a biblical teaching, much like other man-made terms such as “the Great Commission” or “the Golden Rule.”

Isaiah talked of a time in one’s life when “he knows enough to refuse evil and choose good” (Is. 7:15), implying that before that time he did not know enough to refuse evil and choose good and thus was not accountable for his actions. Paul also spoke of a time in his life before sin entered the picture (Rom. 7:9-11), also implying a time in his life before he became accountable.

The Scriptures do not list an exact, universal age in which all come to know the difference between good and evil and thus become accountable. It is therefore different for everyone. Some come to this state of accountability earlier than others. Some arrive later than others. What one is taught and experiences plays a large part in developing one’s accountability, as well as one’s mental and emotional capacities.

What must be done to start a congregation of Christ’s church?

The book of Acts gives us numerous examples. Basically, a local congregation/assembly/church of Christ’s universal church starts to exist when the gospel is preached and obeyed in any given location and those Christians who obeyed it decide to worship and work together in that locale.

This is also how God wants all of His local congregations to grow: by continuing to bring the gospel to more and more lost souls so that more will obey it and be added to the church, both universally and locally.