DO MIRACLES AND PROPHECY STILL HAPPEN TODAY?
First, let's start with making a distinction between spiritual gifts. First, all of them are gifts of the Spirit. Second, certain gifts are for certain functions. The key passage for these understandings is 1 Corinthians 12. You'd do yourself a great favor by reading it slowly. All gifts are for the edification, or building up, of the people in the church. So anything, even miracles and prophecy, must only be done if they help the church.
Second, there are some gifts that have continued to be used by the church, and there are gifts that have ceased because their function has been fulfilled. The gifts that ceased are commonly called the "revelatory," "miraculous", or "sign" gifts. These are the gifts of tongues, healing, and prophecy. They were specifically designed for the recording of Scripture and facilitation of the birth of the church. Once those things were accomplished in God's providence, these gifts ceased because the church and Scripture were either birthed or finished.
This has real implications for today. Up until the 20th century, no significant body of believers had read the Scriptures and found any reason to believe that the "revelatory" gifts continued. Even by the A.D. 400's, there are writings from Augustine and John Chrysostom that the gifts were noticeably absent. If there are still prophets in the true biblical sense, then do I need my Bible and whatever this guy is saying? What's the test of new prophecy?
One of the most convincing and compelling truths is, of course, from Scripture. Some even argue that before the apostles died, revelatory gifts were finding their way out. This makes sense, doesn't it? If the revelation is complete, would the revelatory gifts be complete, too?
Back to 1 Corinthians 12, the sign gifts of tongues, healing, and prophecy are mentioned. But in Paul's later letters (Ephesians 4 and Romans 12) and in Peter's letters (1 Peter 4), all of these revelatory signs are not mentioned at all. While speaking and serving are often mentioned in writings about spiritual gifts, after the first letter to the Corinthians, speaking and writing are not revelatory.
WHEN JESUS TALKS ABOUT THERE BEING MANY ROOMS IN HIS FATHER'S HOUSE AND GOING TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR US, DOES THAT HAVE ANOTHER MEANING OTHER THAN THE OBVIOUS? IS IT THAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT PREPARING ANOTHER DWELLING PLACE FOR OUR SOULS? OR WILL WE NEED A PLACE TO LIVE?
Questions about heaven are great because they make us think about the hope we have. Not only is there is nothing wrong with having a strong desire for our eternal state, but we should encourage it. There will be a time when we have no more desire for sin, because the final enemy will be defeated!
You're referring to John 14:2-3 where Jesus says, "My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
Jesus is making use of a first-century practice about marriage to illustrate that he is the groom and the church is the bride. In Jesus' day, once a man and a woman were engaged or betrothed, the man would start building a house. But he didn't just build a new house. He would add a new section onto his father's house for him and his bride. The groom would go to "prepare a place" for the new couple to live once the marriage had been finalized. When he was done, he would go and get his bride to take her to their new home. Just like it is today, it was an extremely happy and exciting time.
Jesus takes this well-known practice and uses it to tell his disciples that as our groom, he is more than able to take care of us as his bride. He is taking care of everything that holiness and righteousness requires.
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF JESUS' HUMANITY FOR OUR SALVATION?
This is a great question, because sometimes we talk more about Christ's death and unintentionally take focus away from his life.
Your question is answered by the doctrine of double-imputation. The doctrine says that our sins were imputed to Christ (one direction), and his righteousness was imputed to us (the other direction). Our sins were imputed to him, and that's why he was crucified. He who had no sin became sin.
But how would his righteousness be imputed to us? Wouldn't he have to have lived a perfect life for that to happen? Well, that's exactly what happened! The purpose of Christ having a human nature was that he lived his life perfectly empowered by the Holy Spirit to be obedient to the Father's will in every area. No person had achieved that perfect righteousness until Christ did it. That was how we became righteous before the Father. The Father imputed the sins of his creatures to his Son, and he imputed the righteousness of his Son to his creatures. The Son's life was necessary for perfect righteousness to be achieved.
WHY HAVE THE JEWS BEEN SO HATED AND PERSECUTED THROUGHOUT THE YEARS?
First, persecution of any people group for any reason is unchristian and evil. No follower of Christ should ever be involved in the explicit or implicit persecution of God's people.
Second, let me say that I'm not equating the persecution of Jews and Christians, but assuming that you're a Christian who asked this question, let me help frame the question for you.
In the earliest decades of the church, the first 100 or so years after Christ, the church was persecuted. However, this persecution often took the form of maligning character. For example, Christians were accused of cannibilism. Why? Because the of the language of the Lord's Supper (the body and the blood). Not only that, but they were accused of sacrificing and eating infants. Why? Because they rescued infants who were left by parents who didn't want to kill their unwanted child but would allow it to die on its own in the wild. Christians were accused of necromancy. Why? Because they often meet in cemeteries to remember the "great cloud of witnesses."
All this to say that persecution takes many forms. Religions of all stripes are persecuted in some ways if for no other reason than that is the human condition—fallen.
The Jews have undoubtedly received more than their fair share of mistreatment and persecution, to include mass slaughter such as the Holocaust. Again, just to help reframe the question, research in the last five years has shown that the death toll of the Holocaust was between 15-20 million, and 6 million of those where Jews of various nationalities. So with all the compassion I can muster, I must say that the Jews were unimaginably persecuted and slaughtered, and so were millions and millions more.
Part of this is to say that we cannot think of the Jews as the only persecuted people in the world. God is not done with the Jewish people. The church is simply "grafted into the vine" as the apostle Paul says. They are still here and living in vibrant communities because God wants them to do so. God will continue to use them for his glory, both now and at the end of time.
Practically, some of the reasons the Jews are persecuted is because of what follows. There have always been sects of Christians who, outside of orthodoxy, have hated the Jews for rejecting Jesus and blaming them for his murder. One well-known figure of this kind of persecution is Martin Luther, the reformer of the 16th century. While the level of his anti-semitism is often overblown, it is unmistakably there.
But like you said in your question, you have found numerous answers, many of which are contradictory and make no rational sense. You're not a conspiracy theorist, and neither am I.
The truth is that all religions receive persecution, often based on the number of its adherents and its message. The Jewish people have been on the earth for thousands of years, even going back to Abraham. The Judeo-Christian worldview calls the world cursed and fallen. People are not inherently good, even though we are capable of good. The message of both Old and New Testaments are that people are sinners and destined to be apart from God for eternity unless God intervenes. Even the message of creation calls into question the entire post-modern worldview, that all there is is the material world.
The Jews have a message from God for the world—all is not well: it's my fault, your fault and no amount of good will or technology can fix our condition. This is not a message the incredibly secular world wants to hear. Without getting into a religious liberty debate, suffice it to say that we should be praying for our Jewish brothers and sisters to both practice their religion without fear of persecution (just like we want for ourselves) and, more importantly, that by seeing us practice our religion with or without persecution, they would come to know that Jesus Christ is the Messiah their Holy Scriptures promised.
DOES GOD STILL LOVE YOU IF YOU ARE SENT TO HELL?
Like most questions, this is a multi-layered one. Is God more love than anything else? Who sends us to hell, us or God?
First, we need to address the conception of God's love. Clearly, the Bible teaches us that "God is love. (1 John 4:7)" But love is not God's only characteristic. That'd be as silly as thinking that you, your children, or your spouse only has one characteristic. God is also just, merciful, kind, gracious, etc.
The important thing is that God is all of these things in perfection. You and I do not love perfectly, and neither do we practice perfect justice, mercy, or grace. But God does. So we should be weary of those who try to convince to just think of God as love, because he describes himself as much, much more than just one thing.
The other part of your question involves hell, especially the one responsible for sending someone there. The only way to avoid hell is to be born again, or rather, being given the gift of the Holy Spirit so that you're able to have faith in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. You are not your own judge; only God is judge. Therefore, it is nonsense to think that you send yourself to hell. It's often believed that our failure to decide to follow Christ is what sends us to hell. However, that falls short of what the Bible teaches. While we are responsible for whether or not we follow Christ, God must enable us to do so. Otherwise we are all destined for eternal separation from God and all his goodness, IE, hell. You are not your own judge, so you do not send yourself to hell. Only God has that authority.
So, your question is if God still loves you if he sends you to hell. Romans 5:10 teaches us that we are God's enemies if we are not his children. This is why we brought up God's characteristic of justice. Would it be just for God to allow the evil in our hearts and the hearts of other enemies of his to go unpunished? Would it be just for God to do nothing more than closing his eyes to sin? Would you stand for a prison warden who freed every prisoner?
God loves his children, and for a time is showing mercy so that none would perish (2 Peter 3:9). He will one day distance those who are not his children from those he loves to protect the ones he loves. This is love, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. But one day, that patience will have run its sovereign course.
WHY HAS THE WORD RELIGION TAKEN ON SUCH A BAD MEANING THESE DAYS? EVEN THE CHURCH AVOIDS CONNECTING WORSHIP WITH RELIGION. JUST CURIOUS IF IT’S A BAD THING OR JUST ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT IS CONNECTED WITH POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.
You raise a valid point that political correctness should not necessarily guide our decisions about the words we use. That's not because we don't want to be careful with our words and compassionate with how we say things, but PC culture has proven to sterilize ideas time and time again. If people can't be offended, they can't be critical thinkers. Critical thinking helps make us fully human.
So let's turn to the real authority for the Christian, which is Scripture.
If we rephrased your question and asked, what is true religion? then we would be guided to James 1:26-27. This passage says, "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James is addressing a common problem in his world and today's. People are confused on what real religion is. Is it just externals, such as going to church and saying "amen" at the right times? Or is it internals, and it's all about "me and Jesus?"
This passage tells us that true religion is both internal and external; personal piety ("unstained by the world") and acts of love ("in their distress").
The Christian life is lived in and built up by both community and privacy.
If we ignore either part of true religion, then James would tell us that our religion is not even worthy of being called religion. So what many people are fighting against by saying that we shouldn't think of our faith as a religion is that biblical religion, the kind that is pleasing to God, demands a lot of us. It demands training our hearts and minds as well as making time to help those who need it.
True religion demands a mind saturated with the words of God. True religion demands that we care for those who can't care for themselves.
Don't be afraid the word "religion." Jesus was deeply religious.
ARE THERE "TIERS" OR "LEVELS" IN HEAVEN?
Gotta love questions about heaven!
The backdrop for your question is most likely 2 Corinthians 12:2, where the apostle Paul says, "I know a man in Christ, who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, but God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven." With no context, it'd be easy and probably correct to assume that this explicitly teaches that there are three levels to heaven. And if heaven is where we go when we die, then it just makes sense that different levels of heaven implies people will live in different places. Or, it might imply that people get different rewards based on how good or bad they are.
Now, even if the Bible only says something once, it's still authoritative and should be taken as true. However, the idea that there are various levels to heaven is foreign to the Bible. A little context is always helpful.
Like we do today, the authors of the Bible used the word "heaven" for different things. We say that the atmosphere is a kind of heaven, or the sky. We also use the word "heaven" for general outer space. And then of course, we use the word "heaven" for God's abode. This is precisely what we also read in Scripture. Even if the ancients didn't have as wide an understanding of what outer space is and the science behind what the sky is, they were definitely not ignorant that those things were there. There have always been scientists of some sort learning about God's creation.
So when Paul says that he knows a man who says he wen to the "third heaven," he's clarifying the kind of "heaven" he was in. In this case, he means the heaven of God's abode.
Now it is necessary to say that in other passages, Scripture does teach different kinds of rewards that believers will receive once they're in heaven for eternity. Take a couple of places as examples.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 — "Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
Revelation 22:12 — “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done."
But the content of the reward is founded on Christ's work of redemption. All those that God has called to himself will receive heaven, and then once there, various rewards will be given out based on what we've done for the kingdom of God. We should be weary to speculate just what those rewards are, because we're prone to get very materialistic very quickly. We have all we need in Christ based on his work of redemption.
Ephesians 1:3-4 — "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”
WHY DO I COMMIT THE SAME SINS OVER AND OVER AGAIN? HOW DO I STOP DOING THE SAME STUPID STUFF TIME AND TIME AGAIN? I HAVE PRAYED FOR HELP BUT IT NEVER COMES. WHAT DO I DO? HOW DO YOU END THE HOLD THAT THE DEVIL HAS ON YOU ONCE AND FOR ALL?
So much of the health of your spiritual life rises or falls on this question right here, so I'm thrilled you asked it. I'm not going to re-invent the wheel, because so many brilliant Christian minds have dealt with this exact question over the centuries. So I'm going to highlight probably the most profound work on this issue in the history of the church. It's a centuries-old book called "Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers" by John Owen. Here are the highlights. It changed my life.
Romans 8:13 says, "For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
First, we must be about killing sin or sin will be killing us. You've felt this truth in your own heart and mind; otherwise, you wouldn't be so plagued with the guilt and shame of repeated sins. Call sin what it is. It has a will. It has power. It is a real enemy. And it must be dealt with.
Second, killing sin in total is not the same as conquering every single lust and deed. Only the Spirit can do this, and he is at work in you at this very moment. Killing sin is not just turning your attention somewhere else, because you already know that your temptations will find another way to vent. And when we try to tame the power of any certain sin, it's only then that we find out how truly powerful that temptation is.
You must remember this—morality is not the gospel. Just because someone slowly makes progress over one particular sin, there are a thousand more yet to be conquered. Our sin nature remains, and the Spirit is forming us in to more and more Christ-likeness. If you want to kill a particular seen, seek obedience in all of your life. It's so tempting to think that if we just won the battle in this particular area, then we'd have arrived. We'd be set. But that's just one more lie from the enemy. Don't be discouraged, though. What God has started in you, namely, forming you into Christ-likeness, he has promised to finish.
Some sins are more particular to you than other people. There are of course those sins that we're all prone to. But there are some that I'll struggle with that you won't, and vice versa. Or at least, we don't all struggle with the same things to the same degree. So ask yourself, what scares you about sinning? Is it the fear of being caught? Of being judged at the end of time? Or is it the fear of offending your heavenly Father and grieving the Holy Spirit? What's your motivation to stop sinning? "What gospel principles do not, legal motives cannot do" (Owen, "Mortification," p. 94).
Your sin is simply trying to harden your heart. Keep yourself in prayer and vigilant reading of God's Word. Put yourself in godly company. Confess your sins to a trusted brother or sister in Christ who will remind you that you're forgiven in Christ.
There is so much more to say on this hugely important issue, and I would send you to John Owen's work to help you have a deeper understanding of it. I'm praying for you, because I know what you're feeling. Spend time in preaching the good news to yourself.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT LIVING TOGETHER WHEN YOU'RE SENIOR CITIZENS?
This question is incredibly helpful in understanding what living together and marriage means. I'm assuming that the idea here is that two senior citizens of different genders are co-habitating without being legally married.
Let me first say that I understand why so many widowed or never-married seniors have chosen to begin new romantic relationships without the legal step of marriage. Our tax codes are often not so friendly to you. It's possible to lose so much of what you've worked a lifetime accumulating for your own security. So I'm compassionate to that concern.
Let me bring you a couple of passages from Scripture to help shed some light on the issue. The first one is Ephesians 5:3. "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints." The clear implication here is that regardless of any extenuating circumstances, including age, regardless of how inconvenient they may be, the Christian is to never allow sin to any immorality (which in the Scripture almost always insinuates sexual immorality) any room in their life. Another passage (sometimes contested) is 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is "Abstain from every form of evil." This is often translated as "Abstain from even the appearance of evil." Don't let anyone even have the chance to claim you're doing something you wouldn't want anyone else doing.
All this is to say that the Bible is not silent on the issue of co-habitating, even if it's senior citizens. But here's a practical point. If you're living with someone in a romantic capacity and there is real love between you, at least be married in the eyes of God. Perhaps at this stage of life, you're not having children and raising a family, so you don't need the legal component to your relationship to protect your children and spouse. Have a ceremony with your family with your pastor officiating. If you don't want to make it legal and lose everything, that might be a conversation with you two and a pastor so that all the details are much more clear.
But don't fall in to the trap of not thinking that sin is sin just because you're an empty-nester and retired.
WHAT SCRIPTURE SHOULD I REFERENCE TO BEGIN THE FORGIVENESS PROCESS OF MY WIFE? IS MY WIFE SINNING BY DIVORCING ME? THERE HAS BEEN NO INFIDELITY, NOR ANY VERBAL OR PHYSICAL ABUSE. SHE HAS GIVEN UP ON ME BECAUSE SHE NO LONGER LOVES ME. HOW BEST SHOULD I MOVE FORWARD?
Divorce is always painful, regardless of the circumstances. And even if we have to work through all the implications of getting divorced, we should know what Scripture teaches about it so we can confront our own sin and the sins of others.
Marriage has always been intended to be an image of God's relationship to man; this took on its fullest expression in the relationship between Christ and the church. Christ is the groom, and the church is the bride. Christ sacrifices himself for the church. Marriage also serves the social function of protecting children and rearing them up for involvement in other healthy institutions. Marriage is designed from creation, not culture, to be a man and a woman in a covenant between them and God for a lifetime.
Here's where Scripture is clear on divorce. Divorce is permitted, though not required, for two explicit reasons: unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:8-9) and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15). Both of those are instances of breaking the covenant. If neither of those reasons is the foundation for divorce, then yes, the act of divorce is a sin. Under the two categories of unfaithfulness and abandonment, there could be a number of possibilities. Some Bible scholars even see room for divorce because of physical or verbal abuse in the Greek word for "abandonment." But Scripture is also clear from Malachi 2:13-16 that God hates divorce.
In your specific case, even if there has been no abuse or unfaithfulness, you may still not be able to stop your spouse from doing what they've set their heart on doing. This is where the biblical teaching on forgiveness comes in to play. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Does this happen overnight? Never. But just as Christ forgave you, as a believer and part of the bride of Christ, you are called to exhibit forgiveness to all those who offend you. And if you have children, you also need to show how forgiveness works.
The apostle Peter tells us, "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers over a multitude of sins." This is a process. It takes time. But stay fervent in your prayers, no matter how few or short, because that's one way that God aligns your will with his.
Between you and the Holy Spirit, you can work out all of the implications of this painful experience. Take counsel in the community of the church. Pray for your spouse, that even she might repent of her sins and you two might reconcile. During these difficult times that totally upsets your life, it's a good time to repent of your own wrongdoings and confess your sins to God. He is quick to forgive and promises to set your feet on the right path.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT IS WITH ME? I HAVE BEEN SAVED AND BAPTIZED BUT HAVE YET TO FEEL THAT I AM BEING GUIDED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. IS IT A VOICE IN YOUR HEAD SUCH AS YOUR CONSCIENCE?
Great question. There are two things going on in your question, so let's walk through it.
First, sometimes we get confused on the order of how things work. So let's be 100% clear on how we're saved. In the Gospel of John, chapter 3, Jesus has an interaction with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Nicodemus wants to know how to be saved. Jesus' answer is not what he expected. You have to be "born again," Jesus said. Without that, there is no entering God's kingdom. Being "born again" is entirely a work of God, and it's shorthand for God giving us a new heart so that we are even able to love him. You see, unless God acts first, our hearts are so evil that we will never truly seek after God, nevertheless be able to even if we wanted. So God acts first, he regenerates our heart, and he makes us able to call on Jesus to save us. In the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 3, the apostle Paul tells us that no one—absolutely no one, no matter how good of a person you or how much you think it's what you're doing—is able to call on Jesus without being given the Holy Spirit FIRST! If you have called on the Lord to pay the debt for your sins, here's the amazing truth that changes everything—you already have the Holy Spirit! He is why you were able to in the first place!
Second, the Spirit is who guides and directs us, you're right. But the question is, how? The Holy Spirit guides and directs our path by guiding us to God's revealed word, the Scripture. In the Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 27, Jesus himself tells us this. He says, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." Jesus is telling us that the Spirit guides us back to his words. And since Jesus is God, that means all of his inspired word, all of Scripture. Now practically, that means a combination of things—sitting under the preaching of the word, daily reading and meditation, and deeper Bible study with competent teachers. That's the goal for most Christians who are able to do that. The word is the means of grace, the means of how the Spirit leads and prompts, by bringing to our mind his word of truth. Memorizing Scripture is probably the greatest thing you'll ever start doing, because what better way does the Spirit bring to remembrance Christ's words!
WHY DOES GOD LET INNOCENT CHILDREN SUFFER? I HAVE READ ANSWERS ON GOOGLE, BUT THEY ALL SOUND GENERIC.
This question has been a central issue for believers for all generations. Before we can have a final understanding of the answer, we need to understand a couple of other things, as well.
The first thing is that God is holy and we are not. This means that we have offended him and his perfection. Sin is so much worse than a few mistakes here and there. Offenses grow worse as they offend someone in higher and higher authority. Sin is more than an offense to your parents, the police, or even the president. Sin is an offense to the Creator of the universe and the Sustainer of life. All are guilty of sin; and we know that the wages of sin is death. When the first people sinned, they caused us to inherit that sinful nature, one that places our will above God’s. The entrance of sin into the human realm brought with it all kinds of suffering for every person, regardless of age.
The second thing we need to understand is that God does not disregard the suffering of the most vulnerable, both the youngest and the oldest. We read passages in the gospels like Matthew 19:14 where Jesus tells the crowd to send the children up to him so that he can bless them. Jesus never blesses someone that is not his own. Jesus also raised a young daughter of a distraught father from the dead because of his compassion on both him and the daughter.
So while we may not see the immediate value in the suffering of someone we love and is so unable to care for themselves (which I believe is the real issue we have such a hard time with it), we can find trust that they are squarely within the Savior’s arms at all times.
Lastly, “Shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?” — Genesis 18:25.