Dr Adrian Bury's blog

Christian theology, basic teachings, apologetics

Testimonies of God’s provision, teaching on God’s covenants

Just posted some more clips on UT, about the above subjects, check my channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/athb4hu

I will be posting on this regularly from now on

Video clips

Hi all,

I am going to start publishing again, after all this time, but it’s going to be mainly on YouTube. Here is my intro to what I hope will be a series:

God did some amazing miracles today, by the way, answers to long prayed prayers. Sometimes it takes a while!

 

Getting in touch again

I haven’t written recently – lots to do.

We are still involved in mission and other things, will write soon.

Recently I have given some talks in connection with topics concerning Science and the Bible, They can be seen on my YouTube channel, here:

My reason for doing these was, in the first place that I am interested in the subject, but also that there is not much available on this theme in Hungarian. But I tried the talks out in Wales first, so you can listen to them in English and/or Hungarian 🙂

Last days

As I have not been able to upload videos here, try this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM8KODd8zRE

Advert

I have posted some new pages recently, but I have been unable to add tags, I only seem to be able to do it on a main-page post. Does anyone have any ideas about this? In the meantime, I have added tags to this post, so maybe it will get found! 

The new pages are: 

Who am I in Christ? 

Church planting, parts 1 & 2 & 3 (with pics added)

Discipleship or religious observance

By the way, when I was back home at Christmas I was asked to speak in my home church, in Bangor North Wales, and my subject was “Cult or Genuine?” so it is sort of related to stuff I have posted here. They put it on the church website here:

http://www.aogbangor.org.uk/html/teaching.html

Scroll down to the message from 12/26/2010.

You can all laugh at my accent!

Thoughts on the phenomenon of cults

A.  What constitutes a cult?

 Daniel Shaw claims that, “Cults form around paranoid, sociopathic leaders who gain power, and often great wealth, through control and exploitation of members.” 1 Margaret T. Singer approaches the question as a psychologist and not as a theologian, and she states that, in contrast to the standard churches, cults are always about money and profit. 2 In this way, a cult may promise people “the solution,” but sooner or later the members will be hurt and not helped, as the leaders are looking to their own interests, and not to those of their followers. 

Enroth and Alexander take another approach to this question, and differentiate between sociological cults and theological cults. 3 In a sociological understanding, the faith which is customary and acknowledged in a particular society is not a cult, e.g. Sunni Islam is not a cult in Saudi Arabia, and neither is the Orthodox Church in Romania. As the Roman Catholic Church is the largest in Hungary, from a sociological point of view it cannot be considered a cult, in fact, it can happen, that a Catholic believer can feel justified in regarding everyone as a cultist who does not belong to that movement. The problem with this view, is that when we consider that different religions are the accepted norm in different countries, then we still do not receive an answer to the question as to which church is true, and which are cults.

From a theological point of view, on the other hand, those groups are normative which insist that the Bible is the foundation of all theology and practice. If for certain groups some other criterion is of equal significance or even surpasses the Bible, including false or unique Biblical interpretations, they are cults. In the present study, the question will be approached from this third angle.

Following this thread, an important insight is provided by the Romanian Baptist Pastor Iosif Ţon, “Every religion is defined by two absolutely essential factors, which are determined by the answers given to two fundamental questions: 1) What is the source of information for that religion? and 2) What solution does that religion provide for re-establishing the relationship between man and God?” 4

The same two criteria are considered by Enroth and Alexander, in order to define a cult from the Biblical, theological point of view: 5

  1. A false or inadequate basis of salvation. The apostle Paul drew a distinction that is utterly basic to our understanding of truth when he said, “By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Inasmuch as the central doctrine of biblical Christianity is the sacrificial death of Christ for our sin, all cultic deviations tend to downplay the finished work of Christ and emphasise the importance of earning moral acceptance before God through our own religious works as a basis of salvation.
  2. A false basis of authority. Biblical Christianity by definition takes the Bible as its yardstick of the true, the false, the necessary, the permitted, the forbidden, and the irrelevant. Cults, on the other hand, commonly resort to extra-biblical documents or contemporary “revelation” as the substantial basis of their theology (e.g. Mormons). While some cult groups go through the motions of accepting the authority of Scripture, they actually honour the group’s or leader’s novel interpretation of Scripture as normative (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Christadelphians).

 What constitutes unity?

 It is very important for us as Evangelical believers to ask the question, who are our brothers, and who can we be in unity with? We know that it is important for there to be unity amongst Christians, as Jesus prayed for this in his high-priestly prayer, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17: 21). We can see that God always sends his blessing where there is unity among Christians, as for instance in the cities and countries shown in the “Transformations” videos. 6 In my view, it is by the work of the Holy Spirit that God will bring about the desired unity among Christians. Dale Ratzlaff writes that this will be a functional unity, in which the churches involved “agree on the clear fundamentals of the Christian faith yet affirm other churches which may have a different emphasis and different interpretations or understandings on the less essential elements of Christianity.” 7

            I should note, that two extreme views are the main culprits in preventing the attainment of unity in accordance with God’s will, in connection with what are to be considered “less essential elements.” On the one hand, the view which is increasingly dominant in the ecumenical movement is, “all religions are paths which lead to the top of the mountain.” So we can talk about God, and love, and the brotherhood of man, but it is best to leave Jesus out of the picture. Jesus cannot be an inessential element, however, because, “No-one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son, has the Father also.” (1 John 2: 23). At the other end of the scale, for all cults, their strange, unique doctrines, often differing from the teachings of all other churches, are considered essential elements, e.g. the use of the name of Jehovah (Jehovah’s Witnesses), baptism in the name of Jesus only and speaking in tongues as conditions for salvation (United Pentecostal Church International), observance of the Saturday Sabbath (Seventh-day Adventists), acceptance of the book of Mormon as Scripture (Latter Day Saints), etc., etc., etc.. As all these groups consider themselves the “one true church,” Christian unity is clearly only possible in their eyes, if everyone joins them.

Dr. Adrian Bury

Footnotes  

  1. Daniel Shaw, Traumatic Abuse in Cults: An Exploration of an Unfamiliar Social Problem, May, 1996, Essay, http://hometown.aol.com/shawdan/essay.htm
  2. Margaret Thaler Singer, Cults in our midst.
  3. Enroth, The Lure of the Cults & New Religions, p. 21
  4. Iosif Ţon, Credinţa Adevărată, p. 54.
  5. Enroth, The Lure of the Cults & New Religions, p. 21
  6. Transformations and Transformations II, the Sentinel Group.
  7. Dale Ratzlaff, The Truth about Seventh Day Adventist Truth, p. 2.

B.  Various Proposed Formulae for Salvation

 Based on the Ephesians 2: 8-10 passage quoted above, most classic books and articles on cults cite two possible formulae for salvation: 1

 1. Faith in Christ + Good works => Salvation

 2. Faith in Christ => Salvation + Good works

 The first is then referred to as the formula found in the cults, and the other as the formula representing the true Christian gospel. Cults always involve legalism, and a works-based salvation of some kind, and there is never any assurance of salvation. Christians are saved by faith and have assurance of salvation!

My contention would be that this is true as far as it goes, but it is not the full picture. I believe there are basically three types of gospel preached in the modern church(es), two of them are extremes and incorrect, the third is the true version. The formulae are:

 1. Faith in Christ + Good works => Salvation

 2. Faith in Christ => Salvation + Good works

 3. Faith in Christ => Salvation + Nothing else

 Let us consider again what Paul says in Ephesians 2: 8-10: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Compare also James 2: 20, 24: “You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? … You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”

            The commonly accepted version of what is the true Christian gospel and therefore “not cultic” does not necessarily fit into the pattern created by these two verses. It has even been claimed that someone may be born again, show no further evidence of ever having been a Christian, and still be saved. 2

            This concept, however, does not fit in with what the Bible says about God’s purpose in calling the church, which is his people, the body of believers. For instance, we read that we are called and justified in order to be a people which will glorify God on the earth (Eph 1: 11-12). We are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom 8: 29). We are to become without spot or blemish (Eph 5: 25-27). Christians will be known by the fact that they do not sin (1 Jn 3: 7-10), they love one another (Jn 13: 35) and they perform the works of God in the power of the Holy Spirit (Mark 16: 15-18). These things certainly do not fit with the notion of an “unrecognisable” believer.

            The problem is, that although formula 1 above does represent the error of legalism, formula 3 falls into another trap – that of antinomianism. Both of these extremes are condemned in the word of God, for instance, by Paul in his letter to the Romans. The Bible teaches us that in Christ we are set free from the law (Rom. 7: 1-6), but we are also set free from sin (Rom. 6: 18), and this in order that we may serve God (1 Cor. 6: 19-20; Heb. 9: 14). Serving God involves “doing things,” as we are led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8: 13).

It is clear, therefore, that we are justified by faith, freely; by God’s grace we are set free from the law not so that we can continue in sin, but so that we can be led by the Holy Spirit. This will mean doing things for God, so we can reflect his glory.

            Salvation is not based on works, but it does involve works. So of the above formulae, 2 is correct, 1 and 3 are wrong.

 Footnotes:

  1. For example, Dale Ratzlaff, in The truth about Seventh-day Adventist Truth.
  2. For example, Charles Stanley in Handbook for Christian Living, (1996): “Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy.” (p. 93). “…believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation…” (p. 94). “…a Christian who at no point in his entire life bore any eternal fruit. And yet his salvation is never jeopardised.” (p. 121). “…there are Christians who show no evidence of their Christianity as well.” (p. 71).

C.  How to Recognise Cults

I.  Which is the One True Church?

 Christians are often asked, “Why are there so many religions?” This is a good question! Many groups claim that they are the only ones to have found the secret to life. How can I know which is the true one? If I want to please God, which one should I join? Or should I bother to look at this question at all? What if I end up joining some horrific cult, where they take my brain out, wash it, and put it back in an unrecognisable form?

These questions can be answered, but the explanation is not always simple. First of all, there are the various world religions, which are methods written in holy books, invented by men and all differing from each other, according to which, by rule-keeping, rituals and self-discipline, you can get into some state of being liberated from something.

            The Bible can also be regarded as a holy book, but it is totally different. The Bible is the message of the true God to lost mankind. In the religions, men are seeking God, but in the Bible, God is speaking to men – that is the great difference.

            But lots of people use the Bible! Why are there so many Christian churches? One of the reasons for this is historical. God loves people, and sometimes, at certain periods, He deals with them in a special way and many turn to Him all at once. This is known as revival. At such times, one or more movements have always come into being, which later become denominations. Such times of upheaval were, for example, the 16th century Reformation throughout Europe, from which came the Lutheran, Reformed and Anglican Churches, and the 18th century Great Awakening in Britain, which was the origin of the Methodists.

On the subject of “church.” The original Greek form of this word (ekklesia) is used in the Bible for three concepts. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16: 18), and Paul writes, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5: 25). This indicates that the church is made up of all believers in Christ. The apostle Paul writes to, “the church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2), and we read that, “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers” (Acts 13: 1). Here, the church consists of all the Christians who live in a city. Paul also greets, “Priscilla and Aquila… also the church that meets at their house” (Romans 16: 3, 5). This refers to a group of believers meeting in a house. So the meaning of the word is: the universal church, a city congregation, a house group.

            The Bible never uses the word church for any kind of denomination or movement. So, why are there so many…?

There is another possible reason for this. Maybe there are denominations in the Bible after all – at least in embryo. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe” (1 Cor 3: 1-3). Many churches have come into being throughout the centuries, when men have gathered around a certain teacher they particularly liked, and in this way split off from other Christians. Paul calls this immature behaviour. It is noteworthy, that Paul does not concede that any one of the groups in Corinth is right, but assures them all that, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor 12: 27).

When Paul writes to the Galatians, he lists dissensions and factions along with the rest of the acts of the sinful human nature. People love to fall out over trivial matters, and unfortunately, Christians are not always mature enough not to do this. I heard of a church once, which had a split over the colour of a new song book. So the situation appears to be rather complicated. For these, as well as other reasons, there are very many Christian denominations.

So am I going to come to the point and say which is the one true church? No, I’m not! In my opinion, there isn’t one. There is, however, the one true Saviour!

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No-one comes to the Father, except through me” (John’s Gospel 14: 6). The universal church mentioned above is made up of all those who, regardless of membership of human organisations, have taken advantage of this ‘way,’ and become personally reconciled to God. If someone experiences this meeting, it is not essential for him to find the best denomination at all costs, and if he does not experience it, then which church he belongs to is totally irrelevant.

And another thing – Christians are the most normal people you can meet. There’s an interesting thought! They eat, go to work, and sleep. They don’t wear peculiar clothes, they don’t eat special food, they don’t hold secret rites. They love their families and friends. They don’t hurt each other, but if someone gets into trouble they help him – this is characteristic of the true believer, as Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

II.  What is a True Christian Like? 

When we think of a Christian, what sort of picture springs to mind? A young girl with a glazed expression and a grin, who answers every question with hallelujah? A sour-faced old man, who looks down on everyone, as there is no-one who keeps the rules as well as he does? Or a fellow in a black dress, who is such a great guy, because he likes a smoke and comes to the pub with us? Fanatical? Pathetic? Hypocritical? Boring? On the way to heaven, but his earthly life is hell?

The Bible tells us that the disciples were first known as Christians in Antioch (Acts 11: 26). In Antioch, the first church was founded which was made up not only of Jews, but also Greeks who had been saved from a pagan background, and the word Christian was used to refer to them as disciples, followers of Christ. The Bible warns us, however, that not everyone who claims to be a disciple is one in reality, but there will also be false prophets (Matthew 7: 15-23), false teachers (2 Peter 2) and even false Christs (Matthew 24: 2). So not everyone is a true Christian just because they happen to say they are. The true Christian is not a member of a particular church either, as salvation is not through a denomination. So how can we know?

This question may have arisen in the first century too, as the apostle John gives us the answer in his first epistle, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are…” (1 John 3: 10). John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13: 22-24), and when he was old, he lived in the city of Ephesus, where he was active as an elder in the church. Throughout his whole life, he must have pondered on those things which Jesus taught him and the other disciples, and in this way come to an understanding of deep theological truth, as we can see in the Gospel he wrote. Even so, in order to combat the false teachers, in his first epistle he gives three very simple criteria, or characteristics, by which true disciples can be recognised. These three points come up over and over again in this letter, in which John refutes the teachings of the so-called Gnostics. These sects, which combined Christian ideas with Greek philosophy, flourished in the second century, later lost their influence, and by now have ceased to exist, but John’s three criteria are still important for us to consider:

  1. “No-one who is born of God sins, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3: 9). Well, that’s a bit steep, isn’t it? After all, no-one is perfect! So, what can this verse mean? 

a)      It does not mean that someone has never done anything wrong is his whole life. John certainly does not contradict himself, but in this same letter, he writes, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make (God) out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1: 10). The Christian life can only really begin when we realise that we have sinned, and we have need of forgiveness. If someone cannot humble himself, and admit he has done wrong, he cannot be a Christian.

b)      It does not mean that we never make any mistakes and never fall. If this does happen, John’s epistle also indicates the way of restoration, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1: 8-9).

c)      When John writes that the believer does not sin, he uses the Greek present continuous tense. This means that he does not remain in sin, does not commit the same bad deed over and over again, but his life gradually changes and becomes clean. On the other hand, if someone claims to be a Christian, but over the years nothing ever changes in his life, and he is not even concerned about the matter, then John says that he has not met God. (3: 6).

d)      Another picture of the same thing is fruit production. Jesus himself says that a true prophet will be known by his good fruit (Matthew 7: 15-20). A crop does not grow on a fruit tree overnight, but if it is indeed a fruit tree, then the fruit will appear sooner or later. In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul compares the works of the sinful nature with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. From this we can see the sort of behaviour which disappears from the life of a true Christian, and the good things that it is replaced with, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 19-23). This leads on to the next point:

2. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers: Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (3: 14). “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (4: 7-8). This criterion is very significant, because at the Last Supper, Jesus said that this is the way the world will know who are his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13: 34-35). So who is the Christian’s brother? Such a one who is also born of God, as this means that they have the same father. Regardless of social status, nationality, or denominational affiliation. The whole of the New Testament exhorts us to love, “Love must be sincere.” (Romans 12: 9), “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow-man has fulfilled the law… Love does no harm to its neighbour.” (Romans 13: 8, 10), “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5: 6). The result of this will be that relationships between people are restored, they become reconciled with one another, and forgive each other. They are not pleased to see one another fall, but help to lift one another up, as they recognise they all need each other. The verse quoted last above leads on to the third point:

3. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” (5: 1),  “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (5: 11-12). If someone has not met the Son of God, he is not a Christian. A Christian believes that Jesus has always existed, he was born into this world, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended to heaven, and is now interceding for us at the right hand of God. John particularly stresses that God’s Son came in the flesh.

Summarising the three points then, a Christian: believes in Jesus Christ; loves his fellow-believers; and gradually gets rid of sinful behaviour.

These criteria were important at the end of the first century, as the Gnostics denied all three. For them, salvation was by the possession of secret knowledge, and not by faith. They taught that “Jesus” was merely a man, on whom the “Christ spirit” descended at his baptism – therefore Christ had not come in the flesh. And as they knew the secrets, their behaviour was not important – love, or repentance of a sinful lifestyle, were totally irrelevant.

These groups no longer exist, but there are sects is the modern world too, and they often teach false doctrines about Jesus. As to the characteristics of cults, that is another story, which is dealt with in the next section.

III.  Cults under the microscope 

            It’s easy to label some religious group or movement as a cult if we are not familiar with it. Maybe this is the most acceptable solution – if it’s a sect we don’t have to bother with it. Some believe that anything that is not a traditional church must be a sect. Others think that everyone is cultish, who does not belong to their particular group. It is true, that alongside the Christian churches and denominations, there are also cults, but how are we supposed to know which is what?

            The words cult and sect can be defined in several ways. A cult was originally a ceremonial religious system, so as a technical term it is even used to refer to the Old Testament Israelite religion. The word sect is of Latin origin, and the root meaning is “cut.” In a similar way to the Greek word “heresy,” it was used to refer to a group which separated itself off from the rest. We read in the Bible that the Jews considered the Christians to be a sect. While Paul was living in Rome, the Jews came to him and said, “We want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” (Acts 28: 22).

            As we know, over the centuries very many Christian groups have been established. Some of these are good, some bad, and some worse. In this present article, I will use the word “cult” to designate a religious system which for some reason has deviated from the truth, is proceeding in a wrong direction, and therefore causes more harm than good to its members. In spite of the fact that there are very many of these, which can be whole denominations, movements within churches, or individual congregations, and in addition teach very different doctrines, there are common features which characterise these bad systems.

            First of all, I will summarise once again the criteria which according to the apostle John are characteristic of healthy Christian groups: they believe in Jesus Christ; they love their brothers, and they gradually get rid of sinful behaviour.

            In his book, “When a church becomes a cult,” Anglican minister Stephen Wookey lists several points which are typical of deviant religious movements. This list is worthy of attention, as it helps us to spot the signs:

  1. People are dominated, intimidated and manipulated by strong leaders, so that they will conform to their ideas. There are many rules, not necessarily from the Bible, which means everyone has to behave, think, speak or even dress in the same way. As a result, someone’s personality may begin to change, as he starts to do things which are not normal for him, in order to conform to expectations. In the long term, this can lead to someone developing serious psychological problems.

In contrast to the above:

a)      Jesus said that people will obey him because they love him (John 14: 15), not that they will adhere to meaningless rules as a result of external pressure.

b)      God loves variety, as indicated by the multiplicity of creation and all the different human cultures and personalities. He does not want every person to be identical, but wants people to love and respect each other in spite of the differences.

c)      Jesus said to the future apostles of the church, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22: 25-26).

  1. Every sect claims to be the one true, remnant or restored church, the only group where salvation can be obtained, or if not the only one, at least the best there is. The natural conclusion to be drawn from this, is that all other denominations are bad or false. In most cases, they rely on the doctrine of a single teacher, who may be the living leader, or the movement’s founder, apostle, prophet, in certain cases even the group’s Messiah, who receives or has received special revelation from God. The words of this teacher become truth for the group, even if he adds to or contradicts the Bible. As a consequence, the members often become arrogant and look down on everyone else, as only they “have the truth.” On the other hand, if anyone dares to question the teachings of the movement, they are considered to be rebelling against God, and if someone leaves the church, in extreme cases they will be “damned,” or at any rate, what they are doing is “against the will of God.”

With regard to this:

a)      There are around two thousand elite “Christian” groups of this type in the world, so logic dictates that they cannot all be the “one true church.” It is highly probable that none of them is, as God does not give his glory exclusively to one man or movement.

b)      If a group withdraws and separates itself off from other Christians in this way:

i)                    They do not allow others to examine and correct their wrong teachings in the light of the wisdom given them;

ii)                   They automatically exclude themselves from the universal church, which is made up of all born-again believers.

  1. “The end justifies the means” for the group. The end is that as many people as possible should join them. The argument probably works like this: as “we have the truth,” it does not matter even if we use rather dishonest means to spread it. On this basis, several groups do not admit who they are at once, when they start to propagate their teachings. Some cults operate under various different names, so that people will not realise who they are. Certain sects have completely crazy teachings, which someone would find shocking if he heard them at the beginning. They keep quiet about these at first, and prefer to begin with some innocuous point, like what does the Bible say about the family, or the end of the age, or the world political situation. Such things as, “you can progress into being the god of your own world” are kept till the end.

The Bible does not endorse such behaviour:

a)      “The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.” (Proverbs 21: 8).

b)      “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1: 6-7).

  1. As a consequence of the first two points mentioned above, the leader or leaders are untouchable, and cannot be called to account. As they claim that they answer only to God, they are led by the Holy Spirit, it is clear their decisions cannot be questioned. If someone’s leadership position becomes established in this way, care must be taken in three areas, where things can easily go wrong:

i)                    Sex – the leader can fall into sexual sin, for which he often gives a “spiritual” justification.

ii)                   Money – the leader may live in comfort and luxury, but his followers must always give more “for the work of God.”

iii)                 Power – the leader dominates and controls the whole movement.

This behaviour is more reminiscent of the works of the flesh than the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5: 19-22).

  1. Many cults use brain-washing techniques to convince potential members that they are right. Among others, these include isolating people from friends and family. A great deal of information is communicated all at once, which does not allow people to process it or check up on it. They often use “love bombing” – everyone longs to be loved and accepted and this is missing from many people’s lives. In this case, however, the love turns out to be conditional, as if someone decides not the join the group, it is replaced by anger and rejection.

This method is not in line with God’s character. God gave man free will, and although he offers salvation, he does not force this on anyone. When the rich young ruler turned away from Jesus he was sad, and still loved him, but did not run after him to bring him back at any price. (Mark 10: 17-22).

  1. Cults frequently lay great emphasis on teachings about the last days and the end of the world. They have often predicted the return of Christ precisely and in great detail. It is certainly surprising, that when this does not occur, the group does not cease to exist, but they always manage to find some excuse or explanation for the false prophecy. The notion that Armageddon is just around the corner keeps people in a heightened psychological state. They believe that everyone who does not belong to the group is under the influence of Satan, and nothing he says can be accepted. Of course, it is very difficult to help anyone who is in such a condition. This concept may certainly result in paranoia, and in extreme cases such as Jonestown or Waco, in mass suicide.

A few comments on this:

a)      The Bible clearly teaches in very many passages that Jesus Christ will return to the earth, “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13: 26).

b)      However, no-one knows the exact time, “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13: 32). “Now brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thess 5: 1-2).

c)      With regard to details of the events of the last days, there are in existence at least fifteen theories, all of which theologians try to support from the Bible. If a certain Christian group claims that in order to be saved, someone must not only believe in Jesus, but also accept a complicated eschatalogical theory, then in my view, they have exceeded their mandate.

  1. Finally, with regard to theology, the cults teach very many different things, but a few principles may be noted.

i)                    The cults often use the Bible. They admit that it is the infallible revelation of God, and claim that all their teachings come from Scripture. In practice, however, they still distort the truth, because:

ii)                   The doctrine of their teacher/leader overshadows that of the Bible, because he has received “special revelation” from the Lord. The teachings of the leader, already accepted as “truth,” are then read back into the Bible in this way:

iii)                 They use misquoted, badly translated verses taken out of context. They often deny clear verses on the basis of texts which are difficult to understand. Using this method, you can prove anything from the Bible, even that God does not exist (Psalm 53: 1). We will come back to the principles of Bible interpretation later.

iv)                 In a cult, salvation does not only depend on believing in Jesus, but also on adherence to the teachings and practice of the group. Jesus said that those who repent must obey his commandments (Matthew 28: 19-20). The cults replace Jesus’ commandments with their own lists of rules.

v)                  Many cults have an incorrect view of God. Evangelical Christians, along with the traditional churches, accept the doctrine of the Trinity. According to this teaching, which is based on the Bible, there is one eternal God who exists in three persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is particularly important for us, as he is our Redeemer. The cults lay great emphasis on many trivial matters, but it is essential to consider their view of Jesus, as this is often false. For example, there are certain “one true churches” which deny the Trinity in the following ways:

a)      The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate gods, who are “one” in purpose and will.

b)      Jesus was the first creation of the God the Father, and the Holy Spirit is God’s impersonal force.

c)      There is only one God, who appears in three forms in the Bible – as the Creator in the Old Testament; he was incarnated and as Jesus walked on the earth; he is now operative in the church in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Just a couple of points to finish:

  1. If a fellowship isolates itself from other Christians, it falls out of circulation, and cannot become involved with the many good things God is doing in the world. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the disciples into all truth (John 16: 13). This refers to the universal church, not to some exclusive little society which refuses to talk to the rest!
  2. Party spirit and pride are sins, and lead to deception, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16: 18).
  3. We must remember that love was Jesus greatest commandment (John 13: 34). Love and humility are preconditions for someone to know the Lord’s will, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best…” (Phil 1: 9); “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement…” (Romans 12: 1-3).

IV.  Avoid Scripture twisting

Eight Principles for Bible Interpretation

 (I plariarised this bit, mainly to translate for the Hungarian version – see below for reference).

The Bible is God’s message to lost humanity. It is therefore very important that we read it and study it. As it was originally written to those living in a different culture in another age, however, and furthermore deals with spiritual truths, it contains things which are difficult to understand. The Bible is inspired by God and reliable. It contains history, law, prophecy, wisdom literature, poetry and letters, on the basis of which we can see how God has dealt with his people. This means that the Bible is not a dogmatics text book, but since the Reformation, Protestant churches have taught systematic theology merely on the basis of what the Bible has to say (sola Scriptura).

            Throughout the centuries, various kinds of Scripture interpretations, or hermeneutical systems have been used. For instance, Origen, who was active in Alexandria in the late second century, used the allegorical method of interpretation, by which he sought hidden, symbolic meanings in the whole Bible, and in the end, reached conclusions which were in conflict with the clear teaching of the text.

            Nowadays, the literal, normal, or grammatical-historical interpretation method is used by most. The idea behind this, is that the purpose of language is communication. God gave men his word in order to communicate with them, not to lead them astray. The Bible is God’s message, not a puzzle which must be solved. Within this hermeneutical system, eight principles may be applied in order to facilitate understanding and avoid twisting.

  1. When studying a section in the Bible, start with the question, “What does this passage mean?” If it can be understood according to the normal rules of grammar, do not feel that at all costs you must look for some deeper, figurative or symbolic meaning. There is also poetic and symbolic language to be found in the Bible (e.g. Isaiah 5, book of Revelation), but it must only be explained in this way if it cannot be interpreted literally. It is typical of cults to construct certain teachings merely on the interpretation of symbols, relying particularly on the book of Revelation. Always be wary of a teaching which cannot be supported by any clear passages.
  2. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew (a few sections in Aramaic) and the New Testament in Greek. It can only be regarded as inspired by God in these languages – there is no infallible Bible translation, no matter how beautiful, traditional or well-known it may be. The original text must always be taken into account. It is not to be expected that everyone should learn the ancient languages, but understanding is facilitated by at least comparing several translations. For instance, in Genesis 1: 28, according to the King James translation, Adam and Eve are told by God to “multiply and replenish the earth.” This has been used to support the theory that there was a pre-Adamite civilisation which was destroyed in the “gap” between Genesis 1: 1 and 1: 2, as Adam and Eve had to refill an earth which had been emptied. In another version, however, this verse is translated as follows, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.” (NIV). This corresponds to the Hebrew, and is simply a command from God for man to occupy the newly-created earth.
  3. Remember the context. Verses must be read in the context of the whole passage, the chapter, and the book. Finally, pay attention to the wider context of the Old or New Testament. Interesting things may be concluded if the context is ignored. For instance, the first verse of Psalm 53 says, “There is no God.” If the verse is examined a little more closely, however, it turns out that this is the opinion of a fool according to king David, but it is not his own view. Furthermore, the whole message of the Bible naturally assumes God’s existence, and it is also written, that someone can only please God if they believe in Him (Hebrews 11: 6).
  4. Recognise that the Bible contains progressive revelation. This means that the New Testament generally interprets the Old, and the New Testament letters further explain the Gospels.

The New Testament must interpret the Old, as the former was initial, fragmentary revelation, just the shadow of the reality to come. The gospel of Christ is the full revelation, which was prophesied and for which they were waiting (e.g. Heb 10: 1; Col 2: 16-17). For this reason, a dogmatic structure must not be constructed merely from Old Testament verses, and then used to deny or weaken New Testament truths. Approach the Old Testament from the New – do not force the New into the “wineskin” of the Old.

It can be claimed that the letters explain the Gospels, because Jesus did not tell his disciples everything during his earthly ministry, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16: 12-13). One aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit, after he came on the day of Pentecost, was to inspire the New Testament epistles, in which the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ are systematically explained. Beware of any teaching which is considered essential, but which can only be supported from the Old Testament, and there is no trace of it in the New Testament letters.

  1. Always interpret a particular passage of Scripture in the light of the systematic teaching on the subject. Individual teachings are dealt with in many different verses in the Bible, and so all verses which treat the subject must be considered, not just one, otherwise strange conclusions may be drawn. For example, in Acts 1: 8 it is written, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” A certain, well-known “one true church” uses this verse to prove that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but a power sent from God, similar to electricity. The Bible teaches on this subject in very many places, however, and from other passages we learn that the Holy Spirit, for instance: leads (John 16: 13), speaks (Acts 13: 2), makes decisions (1 Cor 12: 11), appoints church elders (Acts 20: 28), can be grieved (Eph 4: 30) and can be lied to (Acts 5: 3). These are only true of a person.
  2. Interpret difficult verses on the basis of clear passages. This is the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture (Scriptura ex Scriptura explicanda est). A favourite trick of cults is to select a difficult passage and then construct their unique teachings on it. Ezekiel 37: 15-17 says, “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, “Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.” Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, “Ephraim’s stick belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.” Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.’” According to another “restored” church, Judah’s stick symbolises the Bible, whereas Joseph’s stick represents the lost history of the tribes who travelled to America. As this came to light in the 19th century, and it was added to the Bible, this prophecy has been fulfilled, because the two sticks have become one! Reading a little further, however (Ez 37: 18-22), it is clear that the people of Israel is referred to here, and not books – the passage explains itself. The same thought is also found in other verses, that after captivity, God will lead his people back to their own land (e.g. Isaiah 45, Jer 25).
  3. Be careful of novel interpretations. Check what several conservative commentaries have to say about the passage. There is little new under the sun. Many heresies of the cults have been thoroughly refuted. Although there are many Christian denominations, it is interesting that there is solid agreement on the fundamental doctrines. Always consider what the biblical author intended to communicate. Cult leaders are experts in removing verses from their context and forcing their own interpretations on them.
  4. Last but not least, approach the Scriptures in prayer. The chief author of the Bible was the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3: 16-17; 2 Peter 1: 21), and he helps born-again believers to understand God’s message (John 16: 13). Do not develop an individual view of doctrine, but allow the Holy Spirit to teach you, and the Scripture to interpret itself.  

Bibliography:  

Avoid Scripture twisting: eight basic rules of Bible interpretation, Watchman Fellowship Inc.

Brinsmead, R. D., Sabbatarianism Re-examined, Verdict Publishing, June 1981.

Ryrie, C. C.,  Teológiai alapismeretek, Egyetemi Nyomda, Budapest, 1996.

Stott, J. R. W., The Letters of John, IVP, 1989.

Wookey, S., When a Church Becomes a Cult, Hodder and Stoughton, 1996.

SDA studies VI

8

Michael, Moses and the Elders

1.      Michael the Archangel 

Former Adventist pastor J. Mark Martin claims, “The early Adventist pioneers taught the heresy called Arianism, which asserts that Jesus is not God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity. Those who believe this false doctrine teach that Jesus is an exalted angel. Those, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who promote this heresy today, teach that Jesus is Michael the Archangel. This early Adventist heresy appeared in several books and articles published by the church.” 1

Among those who taught this were James White, the husband of Ellen, and Uriah Smith, who wrote commentaries propagating the interpretations of Daniel and Revelation still accepted by Adventists today.

Since 1931, the Adventist church has officially embraced the doctrine of the Trinity, but the idea that Michael is Jesus is retained, since Mrs. White taught it. For instance, “Moses passed through death, but Michael came down and gave him life before his body had seen corruption. Satan tried to hold the body, claiming it as his; but Michael resurrected Moses and took him to heaven. Satan railed bitterly against God … but Christ did not rebuke His adversary …” 2

It appears however, that not all branches of the church stress this teaching. When John Surridge, an English Adventist spokesman, was asked if they taught that Michael is Jesus, he said, “I have to admit that this is not something that I have heard much about. However, having looked it up I can tell you that apparently the Church discussed this issue some forty years ago and concluded that the precise identification of Michael was not important enough to dwell on at length.” 3

Adventists today do not teach that Jesus is Michael, i.e. that he is an angel, but they do claim that Jesus appeared as Michael in the Old Testament.

We know that Jesus is not an angel, because he is, “as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have become your Father.’” (Heb 1: 4-5).

Many theologians teach, however, that the “angel of the LORD” who appears in several places in the Old Testament, is an appearance of Christ before his incarnation, as he is identical with the LORD (Gen 16: 11-13; Judges 13: 20-23) and accepts worship (Num 22: 31-32), which an angel does not do (Rev 22: 8-9). The same can be said of the “commander of the LORD’s army,” who appears to Joshua before the battle of Jericho (Josh 5: 13-15).

So Jesus did appear to people in the Old Testament. The question is, does Michael count as one of these appearances? Let us examine the verses which deal with Michael.

The Archangel Michael appears in the following verses: Daniel 10: 13; 10: 21, 12: 1; Jude 9; Revelation 12: 7.

The name Michael in Hebrew is míchá’él, which means “who is like God?” In the Greek text it is written Μιχαηλ. In the Old Testament, in this form, it is the name of 9 or 10 men (Numbers 13: 13; 1 Chron 5: 13, 5: 14; 6: 40; 7: 3; 8: 16; 12: 20; 27: 18; 2 Chron 21: 2-4; Ezra 8: 8), and in the form míchal it is the name of king Saul’s younger daughter (1 Sam 14: 49). These people cannot all have been appearances of Jesus Christ. It is not possible to draw conclusions from the meaning of the name.

Daniel 10: 13 reads, “But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” The part of the sentence which is significant for our study is as follows:

NIV, KJV and NASB: “Michael, one of the chief princes”

Compare with the Latin Vulgate and the Greek Septuagint –

Vulgate: Michael unus principum primorum

LXX: “Μιχαηλ είς των αρχοντων”

These all agree with the original Hebrew, which reads: míchá’él ’achad hassárím hár’íšóním – word for word: “Michael, one the princes the chiefs.”

The expression “the chief princes” is therefore in the plural, both the noun and the adjective, as Hebrew grammar demands, and Michael is one of these.

The meaning of the Hebrew word sar – pl. sárím is commander or prince. This may a human commander (2 Chron 25: 1), Jesus is the “prince of peace,” (Isaiah 9: 6), and it is probably God who is the “prince of princes” (Dan 8: 25). Several times in the book of Daniel, the word refers to angelic beings, e.g. “the prince of the Persian kingdom (Dan 10: 13, 20), “the prince of Greece” (10: 20). Michael would also be one of these angels.

The other verses in Daniel are as follows, “No-one supports me against them except Michael, your prince” (10: 21); “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise” (12: 1). Not much can be concluded from this. It may be Jesus who is the protector of the Jewish people, but in an apocalyptic text of this type, it could equally well be a chief angel. The resurrection, which soon follows in chapter 12, can naturally only be the work of Jesus, but it is not written in the text that Michael plays a role in this.

As a result, it can be said that there are verses in the book of Daniel which would support the claim that Michael is Jesus. I believe that the decider, however, is the fact that he is only one of a certain group, and this cannot be true of Jesus, as he is a unique being. The most likely conclusion based on the book of Daniel, therefore, is that Michael is not Jesus.

Michael’s name also occurs in the book of Revelation, also an apocalyptic work, and he is once again in a battle. “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.” (Rev 12: 7). This could equally well be a chief angel or a symbol of Jesus. No decision can be made on this basis.

The word “archangel” comes from the Greek (αρχαγγελος), and means “chief angel” or “angelic prince.” The following related words also may refer to spiritual beings: “αγγελος” (messenger – Mat 1: 20), “αρχη” (ruler – Rom 8: 38), “αρχων” (authority – in the New Testament, this generally means the human authorities, but cf. LXX translation of Dan 10: 13).

The word archangel only occurs twice in the Bible. It is difficult to determine the meaning of such a rare word on the basis of the Bible alone, but archangels were a well-know concept in intertestamental Jewish literature. More on this below.

Let us look at the verses first. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thess 4: 16).  We know that at the sound of Jesus’ voice, the dead will be raised. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice (that of the Son of man) and come out…” (John 5: 28-29). It is not certain, but I believe that the loud command, the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call are not one and the same thing, but three separate events. 4 If this is so, then the voice of the Son of man corresponds to the loud command, not the voice of the archangel. On the basis of this verse, it is very unlikely and certainly speculative to assert that the archangel is Jesus.

The final verse is Jude 9, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”

The expression “did not dare” is ουκ ετολμησεν in Greek. According to the lexicon, the word τολμαω means dare, take courage, be brave enough, presume. In the negative, it occurs in the following verses: Matthew 22: 46; Mark 12: 34; Luke 20: 40; John 21: 12; Acts 5: 13, 7: 32; Romans 10: 18; 2 Corinthians 10: 12, and means that someone does not dare to do something because he is afraid. I do not believe that it can be claimed that there is anything Jesus would not dare to do.

It is true that the angel of the LORD uses the same words against Satan in Zechariah 1: 2, but why should this mean that he is the same person? It is not written that the angel of the LORD did not dare to speak to Satan.

To return to Jude. In the early church, the epistle of Jude was a disputed book for a long time 5, as he refers to apocryphal sources. For example: “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones, to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14-15). This prophecy is not to be found in the Old Testament, however, compare: “And behold! He comes with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgement upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly, and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. (1 Enoch 1: 9).

Jude and his original readers must have been familiar with the first book of Enoch. According to most commentators, this is a pseudepigraphic book originating from the first century BC, and a lot can be learnt from it about the beliefs of Judaism at that time. The early Christians respected this book, and Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria quote from it. It was condemned and banned by the fourth century church fathers, however, and was therefore lost for a long time. In the early nineteenth century though, an Ethiopic translation was found in Alexandria, and this was translated into English and published in 1821. Since then, copies have also been found among the Dead Sea scrolls.

First Enoch is one of the popular intertestamental apocalyptic works, which are based on Daniel, but contain a much more elaborate angelology. Michael often turns up in these books, but he is not the only archangel: “And the angel Michael (one of the archangels) seized me by my right hand…” (1 Enoch 71: 2); “Such is the picture and sketch of every luminary which Uriel the archangel, who is their leader, showed unto me.” (1 Enoch 79: 6). In one place in the book, seven archangels are named: Uriel, Raphael (who occurs in the book of Tobit – e.g. “And the holy angel of the Lord, Raphael was sent to heal them both.”Tobit 3: 25), Raguel, Michael, Saraquael, Gabriel and Remiel (1 Enoch 20: 1-8). In another place, four of them are standing round the throne of God: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Phanuel (1 Enoch 40: 8-10).

No attempt is made at this point to assert that all this conforms to reality, but just that when the first Christians heard the word archangel, they would have thought of a high-ranking angel, and not a unique being who is identical to the Son of God. In order to determine the meaning of a rare word, not only the etymology should be considered, but also the contemporary usage.

Several of the early church fathers assert that Jude, when he refers to the conflict of Michael and Satan over Moses, is quoting from another apocryphal book called the Testimony of Moses or the Assumption of Moses. For example, Origen writes, “In the book of Genesis, the serpent is described as having seduced Eve; regarding whom, in the work entitled The Assumption of Moses (a little treatise, of which the Apostle Jude makes mention in his Epistle), the archangel Michael, when disputing with the devil regarding the body of Moses, says that the serpent, being inspired by the devil, was the cause of Adam and Eve’s transgression.” 6

In connection with the fact that Jude quotes from literature of this sort, it should be noted that this does not mean he considered these books to be inspired, or that we should consider them as such. The Apostle Paul sometimes cites Greek poets to stress a certain point, i.e. Aratus (Acts 17: 28), Menander (1 Cor 15: 33), Epimenides (Titus 1: 12). “Such quotations in no way suggest that the quotations or the books from which they were taken are divinely inspired. It only means that the Biblical author found the quotations to be a helpful confirmation, clarification or illustration.” 7

It must also be said, that it is a general principle of Biblical interpretation, that an important doctrine should not be based on the details of a parable or illustration. In Jude 9, it is not the intention of the author to teach details on the death of Moses or the person of Michael, but to illustrate the attitude of the false teachers. Peter also deals with this subject in his second letter, and it is interesting to compare the two passages.

“Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, though they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.” (2 Peter 2: 10-12). 

“In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them.” (Jude 8-10).

So Peter uses the angels as an illustration, whereas Jude uses Michael, but the point made is the same.

To summarise then, it is asserted here that Jesus Christ did not appear as the archangel Michael in the Old Testament, the main reasons being:

Biblical:

1. Michael is just one of the chief princes (archangels?), and

2. He did not dare to rebuke Satan.

Historical:

3. The word archangel would not have indicated a unique being for the first readers.

2.      Moses

Let us now turn to Moses. Mrs. White claims that Moses was raised from the dead by Jesus. See above 2, and: “The angels buried Moses, but the Son of God soon came down and raised him from the dead and took him to heaven.” 8

First of all it must be said, that this is not written in the Bible. The death of Moses is described in Deuteronomy 34: 5-7: “And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no-one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.”

There is not the slightest hint in the Old Testament, that Moses’ body did not remain in that unknown grave. Indeed, God said to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready…” (Joshua 1: 2). Jude 9 states that there was a conflict over Moses’ body, but it does not say what happened to it afterwards. So we can speculate, can’t we? And of course, everyone speculates according to his own theological ideas and prejudices.

What are the possibilities?              

  1. Jude quotes an intertestamental Jewish legend, which is contained in an apocryphal book, as this is a good illustration of what he wants to say about the false teachers, but he does not wish to claim that this event really happened.
  2. This event really did happen, in spite of the fact that it is written in an uninspired book, because it is in the Bible.

Both of these possibilities are acceptable. In the first case, the epistle of Jude is still regarded as inspired, but no teaching is built on the illustration. Let us assume, however, that the second case is correct.

It would be good to obtain and read the Assumption of Moses, as we would be informed what these celestial beings were arguing about, and what happened afterwards. Several of the Early Church Fathers refer to the book, but unfortunately, only the beginning has survived, which in apocalyptic fashion describes history in symbols from the time of Moses to the time of Herod, but the end, which would describe Moses’ death, has been lost. 9

So how can we speculate about Jude 9?       

A. Moses was resurrected and is bodily in heaven.

This is not a new theory. Augustine states, that Christians believe Enoch, Moses and Elijah are in heaven. 10 Unfortunately, he gives no details.

In a Catholic study, in which he tries to prove the assumption of Mary, Mischewski explains the cases of Enoch and Elijah, to show “such things happen.” Then he writes, “Jude gives us a hint about what may have happened to Moses after his death, and refers to the Assumption of Moses, in Jude 9. It seems fair to speculate that Moses was taken up to heaven bodily, given that at the Transfiguration, Moses appeared with Elijah, who we are told explicitly was assumed into heaven.” 11 (My emphasis.) Mario Derksen, however, another Catholic, refutes the idea that Moses is bodily in heaven, on the basis that Jesus would only have resurrected him after his own resurrection. 12 More on this later.

Faussett says this of Moses’ body, “Satan, as having the power of death, opposed the raising of it again, on the ground of Moses’ sin at Meribah, and his murder of the Egyptian. That Moses’ body was raised, appears from his presence with Elijah and Jesus (who were in the body) at the Transfiguration: the sample and earnest of the coming resurrection kingdom, to be ushered in by Michael’s standing up for God’s people. Thus in each dispensation a sample and pledge of the future resurrection was given: Enoch in the patriarchal dispensation, Moses in the Levitical, Elijah in the prophetical.” 13 It’s just that, this explanation does not work for Enoch and Elijah, as they were not raised from the dead, and nothing of this sort is written of Moses either.

It is more likely that at the transfiguration, Moses appears as the representative of the law, and Elijah of the prophets. Another thought, is that Moses represents those saints who have passed through death to enter the kingdom of God, and Elijah those who are alive and awaiting the rapture. 14

B. The angels buried Moses after his death.

Moses was alone when he died. According to Josephus, God hid his body from the Jews. 15 God sent Michael to bury him, but Satan wanted the Jews to find the body and make an idol of it, as they later did with the bronze serpent. Michael won the dispute, and together with the angels, buried the body. 13, 16 This is certainly in line with the Bible.

But if this is so, then why is the book called the Assumption of Moses? Probably referring to this book, Clement of Alexandria writes, “Therefore, Joshua the son of Nun saw Moses, when taken up to heaven, double: one Moses with the angels, and one on the mountains, honoured with burial in their ravines.” 17

Now let us speculate a little. Maybe the same thing happens here, as in another apocryphal work, the Apocalypse of Moses.

This book tells of the death of Adam and Eve. As death approaches, Adam is worried about how he will be received by God. The LORD sends Michael and the angels to sort things out. When the couple die, their spirits are taken up to heaven to await the resurrection, and their sons are shown by the angels how to bury the bodies.

So according to this theory, and in harmony with Jewish beliefs of that time, the following occurs at the end of the apocryphal book, the Assumption of Moses. Moses dies and the angels accompany his spirit to heaven. This is unusual, as most people would have descended to Sheol. Satan disputes with Michael, as he wants the body to be found, but he does not win the argument, and the angels bury him. How much this is in line with reality is, of course, another matter.

C. Moses body symbolises the Jewish people.

Faussett once again, “It is noteworthy that the same rebuke is recorded here as was used by the Angel of the LORD, or Jehovah the Second Person, in pleading for Joshua, the representative of the Jewish Church, against Satan, in Zech 3: 2; whence some have thought that also here ‘the body of Moses’ means the Jewish Church accused by Satan, before God, for its filthiness, on which ground he demands that divine justice should take its course against Israel, but is rebuked by the Lord who has “chosen Jerusalem.” Thus, as ‘the body of Christ’ is the Christian Church, so ‘the body of Moses’ is the Jewish Church.” 13

It really is very difficult to decide, as the material is insufficient and conflicting. Although the matter is not decided, let us pass on for a while. For the time being, a few important points are repeated:

  1. It is written in the Bible that Moses died and was buried.
  2. It is not written that he rose from the dead.
  3. The verses used to support this can be explained in other ways.

3.      The Elders

Still on the theme of the resurrection, let us consider the elders. In Revelation 4, there are 24 elders seated round the throne of God. Many interpretations of these have been offered. According to Adventist doctrine, they are raptured or resurrected saints, including Enoch (Gen 5: 24 – “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away”), Elijah (2 Kings 2: 11 – “suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”) and Moses (based on Jude 9), as well as the following:

“The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Mat 27: 52-53). This happened when Jesus died on the cross. The Bible says nothing more about them. Based on Ephesians 4: 8 (“When he ascended on high, he led captives in this train and gave gifts to men.”), they claim that when he ascended to heaven, Jesus took them with him. They would then be the first fruits of the resurrection, or the wave sheaf of Leviticus 23: 9-13.

See Mrs. White, “He enters into the presence of his Father. He points to his wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet: He lifts his hands bearing the prints of the nails. He points to the tokens of his triumph; he presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with him as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at his second coming.” 18 

Let us consider the feast of firstfruits. “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so that it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.” (Lev 23: 10-11).

The Jewish festivals can all be interpreted as types of the different aspects of Jesus’ work (Col 2: 16-17; Heb 10: 1), e.g. the Passover is a type of Jesus’ death on the cross (Lev 23: 4-8; 1 Cor 5: 7).

The assertion is made here that the feast of firstfruits symbolises the resurrection of Jesus, and not that of the twenty four elders, for the following reasons:

  1. Jesus died at the Passover, which fell on a Friday in that year (Mark 15: 42). The Bible says that these saints were raised at the same time as Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn, and the centurion spoke (Mat 27: 50-54). This all happened on the Friday.
  2. In Leviticus, firstfruits follows the Passover, and is held on the day after the Sabbath. On this day, the first day of the week, Jesus was raised from the dead (Mark 16: 9).
  3. Paul specifically writes, that Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor 15: 20). In this section, Paul argues that because Christ was raised, then the saints will also be raised. He uses the picture of the firstfruits only in reference to Christ. If these saints were part of the final resurrection, and they really were the firstfruits, then why are they not mentioned? He could strengthen his argument by using them to prove that there really is a resurrection.
  4. Clement of Rome, who died in 100 AD, in his letter to the Corinthian church, writes, “Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the firstfruits by raising Him from the dead.” (Chapter 24). This indicates that the early church understood Jesus to be the firstfruits.
  5. If the feast of firstfruits is not a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection, then there is no Jewish festival which points to this important event.

The Bible also teaches specifically that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead. On this, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15: 20).

“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Col 1: 18).

“Grace and peace to you… from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” (Rev 1: 4-5).

“I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26: 22-23).

Although there were people both in the Old Testament and in the New who were raised from the dead, Jesus Christ was the first representative of the final resurrection. And that he is still the only one, can be seen from the following order: “In Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come…” (1 Cor 15: 22-24).

Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1: 9). We are still awaiting his return, and therefore, up till now, Jesus is the only one who has been raised from the dead permanently. Before Jesus, it is not written of anyone, that they were raised from the dead and taken up to heaven.

With regard to Ephesians 4: 8, to quote Wesley, “Having ascended on high, he led captivity captive – He triumphed over all his enemies, Satan, sin, and death, which had before enslaved all the world: alluding to the custom of ancient conquerors, who led those they had conquered in chains after them. And, as they also used to give donatives to the people, at their return from victory, so he gave gifts to men – Both the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.” 19

“To lead captivity captive” was a well-known concept in the Roman world, and relates to the mocking of conquered foes, not the bringing home of liberated prisoners. Jesus’ triumphal procession is also referred to in Colossians 2: 15: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

In summary, therefore, the twenty four elders cannot be the firstfruits of the resurrection, and cannot be resurrected people who have been already taken up into heaven at all, because:

  1. Jesus Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection.
  2. Jesus is the first, and at the moment the only one to have been permanently raised from the dead.
  3. These facts exclude the possibility that before, together with, or after Christ up to the present day, anyone has been permanently raised and taken to heaven.

In a similar way, Moses cannot have been raised from the dead, because:

  1. It is written that he died and was buried.
  2. It is not written that he was raised from the dead.
  3. Jesus was the first.

Incidentally, the assumption of Mary is also excluded by this argument!

Finally, I should just mention, briefly, the theories of several known commentators as to the identity of the elders. The following suggestions have been made:

  1. One of the oldest theories is that these are the saints in heaven, waiting for the final state. There are 24, as they represent the 12 tribes of Israel plus the 12 apostles, and thus the whole church, or alternatively, the 24 priestly divisions (1 Chron 24: 1-19) (John Gill, Matthew Henry).
  2. They are the saints in heaven after the (pretribulation) rapture (John Darby).
  3. They are angelic beings (Johnson, Beasley-Murray, George E. Ladd).

I did not find any other commentary that mentioned the Adventist interpretation. Not to be dogmatic, but I prefer the third possibility, for the following reasons:

a)       The elders are of the same character as the four living creatures, who are angels. They surround the throne, and worship together with them (Rev 4: 4, 9-10). They sing the new song together (5: 8-9). This song praises God for the redemption of men, but the elders nowhere praise God for their own salvation. They do not belong with the redeemed, the martyrs or the 144,000.

b)       When the multitudes of angels honour the lamb, they are in concentric circles about the throne: angels, elders, and creatures (5: 11).

c)       When the redeemed praise God for salvation, the elders sing a different song together with the angels and the creatures (7: 9-12).

d)       One of the elders talks to John about the redeemed, but he is not one of them (7: 13-17).

e)       The elders and the creatures are among those who cannot learn the song of the redeemed (14: 3).

f)        Together with the four creatures, they offer incense, which represents the prayers of the saints (5: 8). This function is performed elsewhere by an angel (8: 3). 

Footnotes:  

  1. J. Mark Martin, Seventh-day Adventism and the Writings of Ellen G. White, chapter 3, Internet
  2. Ellen G. White, Early Writings, p. 164.
  3. Interview with John Surridge Communications Director of the Seventh-Day Adventists, Reachout Trust, Internet. Incidentally, in the same interview he also states, “For most Seventh-day Adventists the identification of Azazel is an obscure side issue.” Maybe the English Adventists are going in the right direction!
  4. E.g. Adam Clarke’s commentary. 
  5. According to Eusebius’ (265-340) church history.
  6. Origen, De Principiis, III. 2. 1.
  7. D. W. Burdick és J. H. Skilton, NIV Study Bible, p. 1879. 
  8. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, p. 659.
  9. Encyclopaedia Britannica, article: Biblical literature.
  10.  Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 24: 1-3.
  11.  Dean Mischewski, The Assumption of Mary. He also uses Matthew 27: 52-53!
  12.  Mario Derksen, Do Souls Sleep after Death?
  13.  A. R. Faussett, Commentary on Jude.
  14.  The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, entry: Transfiguration.
  15.  Josephus, Antiquities, 4: 8.
  16.  Eg. commentaries by Calvin, Clarke, Wesley, Henry.
  17.  Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromateis, VI, 15.
  18.  Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, p. 834.
  19.  John Wesley, Commentary on Ephesians 4. Calvin and Clarke are similar.  

Bibiography:

Baldwin, J. G., Daniel – an Introduction and Commentary, IVP, 1978.

Ballenger, A. F., Cast out for the Cross of Christ, 1909 (Internet).

Barker, K. L. (ed.), The NIV Study Bible, Hodder and Stoughton, 1985.

Davidson, B., The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Zondervan, 1970.

Gingrich, F. W., Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Chicago, 1965.

Guthrie, D., et al. (ed.), The New Bible Commentary Revised, IVP, 1970.

Ladd, G. E., A Commentary on the Revelation of John, Eerdmans, 1972.

Martin, J. M., Seventh-day Adventism and the Writings of Ellen G. White

Martin, W., The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House, 1997.

Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, DBG, 1988.

Unger, M. F., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, 1988.

The NIV Triglot Old Testament, Zondervan, 1981.

9

Have they ceased?

On the gifts of the Holy Spirit

Introduction:

                In his article entitled, “The Other Major Blind Spot of Adventism” 1, Joel Wolensky indicates that Charismatic-type renewal has occurred several times within the Adventist movement. In 1908, Mr. and Mrs. Mackin visited Ellen White, and told how they spoke in tongues, sang in the Spirit, prophesied and cast out demons. This happened after the Azusa Street revival, but there were also earlier occurrences.

                To quote Wolinsky 1, “There have been other outbreaks of “Pentecostalism” in Adventism. Another such example is from Battle Creek, Michigan in the early 1890’s… And it was led by none other than A. T. Jones, E. J. Waggonner and W. W. Prescott! But wait a minute, are these not some of the same people who lead out in the so-called “Righteousness by Faith” event of 1888 that all SDA’s have heard so much about? Yes, they are the same people.”

                However, Mrs. White had a vision in which she condemned these practices, and the SDA’s have since opposed the Charismatic movement. (Interestingly enough, there are some Charismatic Adventists in Hungary, as well as Sabbatarian Pentecostals.) I should like to discuss the question of spiritual gifts in this article, taking a wider view than just dealing with Adventism.

                There are many churches and Christian movements in existence which claim to be Evangelical. Between them, as they teach dogmatics based only on the Bible, there is solid agreement on basic questions of theology, although there may be differences in matters which are more difficult to determine. The Evangelical camp is divided, however, in one certain area – on the matter of one of the aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit. Charismatic and Pentecostal denominations claim that the spiritual gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12-14 are still to be used in the churches, whereas many other churches hold to the Cessationist view – that God caused these to cease, or withdrew them, around the end of the first century. The practice of individual believers and churches is of course determined by their opinion in this regard, but the answer to the problem must not be sought primarily in practice or experience, but only in the Bible.

(For a continuation of this article, see posts on Gifts of the Holy Spirit)

Footnote:

  1. Joel Wolensky, The Other Major Blind Spot of Adventism, Online

http://www.sabbath.com/sdanon/other.htm

 

Supplement:

Why I don’t believe in soul sleep

            Because of thoughts I have had recently, and disputes that have arisen, I feel the need to write on this subject again.

            I have dealt with this in connection with my studies on Adventism, but I should also like to include another version of soul sleep here, as well as that which they teach. I shall try to follow a logical pattern in building up the argument.

            What is soul sleep?

            Soul sleep refers to the teaching that between physical death and the final resurrection, man has no consciousness of his existence, because he, or what, if anything, remains of him, is “asleep.” There are in fact at least two sub-divisions of this concept.

            Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists and Christadelphians teach that man has no soul or spirit, but just has a body. On the basis of Genesis 2: 7 they claim that:

Body + Breath = Living soul

            This means that man is essentially no different from the animals, and when he dies he ceases to exist, as there is no part of him that can survive death.

            Another version of soul sleep does acknowledge that man has a spirit, but that this falls asleep when the body dies, and reawakens at the resurrection.

Problems with version 1

            The first version of this teaching is not accepted by mainline Christian denominations, and rightly so as it creates major problems for several significant doctrines.

Consequences of sin

Paul writes: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph 2: 1). The Ephesians were obviously not physically dead, but spiritually dead. As a consequence of sin, man is separated from God in his spirit, and can do nothing of himself to restore a relationship with God. Denial of the human spirit minimises the consequences of sin, so “making more of an effort” will perhaps alleviate the situation.

The new birth

Jesus said: “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying you must be born again.” (Jn 3: 6-7). If man has no spirit, then there is nothing in him which can be born again. The new birth must consequently be redefined in a physical or intellectual way, thus robbing it of any real significance.

True worship

Jesus said: “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4: 24). Following on from the previous point, if man has no spirit, there is no part of him which can have a relationship with God or approach him in worship. Paul says: “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Cor 14: 15), and also “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rom 8: 16). If the human spirit is taken as breath, then these verses are meaningless.

The resurrection

Paul again: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him… For the Lord himself will come down from heaven… and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thess 4: 14,15). If man has no spirit which survives death, then nothing of him remains which can be raised from the dead. He dies, and his essential “ego”, i.e. his personality is extinguished; he has ceased to exist. Resurrection then must be redefined as recreation, or making a copy. This is perhaps the most serious problem with this theory, as denial of the human spirit logically leads to denial of the resurrection from the dead, which is a major Christian doctrine. Even the omnipotent God cannot do something which is logically or philosophically impossible, i.e. bring back something which has ceased to exist. There can therefore be no judgement following death (Heb 9: 27), the wicked are not called to account, and the righteous have no reward. Only the final generation of Christians, who experience the rapture, will receive eternal life. All the rest have already perished. This, however, means that God is unjust, and even a liar.

Christology 

Jesus said, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. … I have authority to lay it down, and authority to take it up again.” (John 10: 17,18.) Once again, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. … the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2: 19,21) If Jesus died just like any other man, then his personality was also blotted out, and his resurrection was also “re-creation.” In that case, Jesus would have to be regarded as a created being, which is foreign to the Bible. Furthermore, if he did not exist for three days, how could he raise himself from the dead, as he promised in the above verses?

For the above reasons, and by reason of the verses quoted, I consider the version of soul sleep which denies the existence of the immaterial human spirit to be illogical and, more importantly, unbiblical.

Problems with version 2

            In order to understand this version we must realise that when someone dies, there is a difference between what happens to the body and what happens to the spirit. Failure to make this distinction has led to confusion. One difference is, we can and do observe and experience what happens to the body at death, but as the spirit is invisible, we have to rely on the Scriptures for information regarding this.

Falling asleep and waking up are symbols of physical death and resurrection

In both Old and New Testaments, sleeping and waking are used as symbols or metaphors of death and resurrection. For instance: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12: 2); “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men.” (1 Thess 4: 13). These verses should be understood as referring to physical death seen from the point of view of those who are still living.

I believe this metaphor is used, for one thing because physical death resembles falling asleep, and for another, because for a Christian, death is only temporary as we will be raised from the dead. It indicates that death is not so final as it seems, as we await the resurrection from the dead. I do not believe we should make any assumptions about what happens to the soul on the basis of this figure of speech.

Sleep is a physical requirement

We know that natural sleep is a physical requirement. Physical beings we can observe in this world, both man and all kinds of animals, have need of regular sleep for healthy existence. Nothing we read in the Bible, however, gives any indication that any kind of spiritual beings have need of sleep, or are even capable of sleeping.

No sleeping spirits are ever encountered in the Bible

God is a spirit (Jn 4: 24) and he does not sleep: “He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Ps 121: 4 – also Jn 5: 17). Angels are also spiritual beings (Heb 1: 14), and certain of them worship God in heaven, “day and night without ceasing.” (Rev 4: 8). The conclusion may be drawn that they do not need to sleep.

The Bible also teaches that man also has a spirit (e.g. 1 Cor 2: 11), and this survives death (e.g. Mat 10: 28; 2 Cor 5: 8). Human spirits after death are very rarely encountered in the Bible, but in every instance where they are seen, they are always awake, never asleep. The following incidents may be cited:

The prophet Samuel appears to King Saul (1 Sam 28).

The spirits of the dead greet the king of Babylon when he too dies (Isaiah 14: 9-11).

Moses appears to Jesus on the mount of transfiguration (e.g. Mat 17: 3 – Elijah was translated, but Moses died).

The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31).

The martyrs under the altar in heaven cry out to God (Rev 6: 9-11).

That is about all there is, and of course, reasons can be and have been found to dismiss all of these verses, but on the other hand, in contrast to these five instances of human spirits after death which are awake and communicating, there is not one single verse, either Old or New Testament, where sleeping spirits or souls are encountered.

It could be said that “sleeping” is figurative language, and the soul does not sleep like the body.

My answer would be that the Bible does not say the soul sleeps, even in figurative passages, so there is no need to accept it as any sort of language.

It could be said that God is capable of “putting the soul to sleep”, even if it is not normal for it to sleep, as He is omnipotent.

My answer would be that God is indeed capable of doing this, but we do not read anywhere in the Bible that He actually does it.

I therefore see no reason to postulate the existence of sleeping souls, information on which could only be obtained from the Scriptures, and yet the Bible having no knowledge of them.

Although this second variant of soul sleep does not cause such serious problems as the first version, for the above reasons, I consider it also to be unbiblical.

Conclusion

            Physical death and resurrection is referred to in the Scriptures using the metaphor of sleeping and waking. This tells us nothing of the state of the spirit. When the Christian dies, his spirit departs to be with Christ, who will then bring this spirit back to earth with him when he returns and it will be united with a new body in resurrection.

            The contrast between what happens to the body and the spirit is seen in the story of Stephen’s death: “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7: 59).

Dr Adrian Bury