1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Is there a question someone has asked you that you do not know the answer to? Is there a doubt or question related to the Bible you have, and would like to ask? We, at the University church of Christ, desire to help you to "Test all things, hold fast what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). If you have a question, ask us and receive your response!
Q&A #1 Marco Arroyo
Q: Marco, do we have to forgive someone if they do not repent?
A: Surely, this is a question of great importance. In fact, I would say that forgiveness is one of the many topics in the Bible that is mentioned, but so heavily misunderstood by many. Although I understand what the question means, I believe this would be a better way to phrase it: Should we (or can we) forgive someone that God has not forgiven? In all of these, the answer I will give must ONLY be an answer to the question, “What does the Bible say about this?” Therefore, let’s see what the Bible says about this important question.
Our God is infinitely great. I know without any doubt that we could agree that each of His qualities are better than our qualities. God is the greatest lover, the greatest healer, the greatest long sufferer, the greatest example, and, of course, the greatest forgiver. God is our perfect pattern for forgiveness since He is the best and greatest when it comes to forgiving. There is no person in existence that can be “more forgiving” than Him, since He is the greatest in all of His characteristics. If we want to acquire a godly sense of forgiveness in our lives, we MUST pattern our forgiveness after His.
With that in mind, there is another question that needs to be asked: Is forgiveness conditional (only granted when there is repentance), or is it unconditional (no need for repentance)? When Dylann Roof, on the evening of June 17th, 2015, opened fire and killed 9 individuals inside of a church, the world was shocked at the news of such a heinous and evil act. After this happened, some individuals related to the victims were highly commended for allegedly forgiving the shooter of their loved ones. So, for them, forgiveness is unconditional. What does the Bible say?
Immediately, Matthew 6:14, 15 comes to mind. The Bible says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Also, Mark 11:25, 26 reads, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” From these verses, some have argued that the Christian is to unconditionally forgive, and if we don’t, God will not forgive us. However, as with any biblical idea, we cannot simply pick out a couple of verses and think we have the full picture and idea. There is another important passage pertaining to this question that we must keep in mind when it comes to whether or not forgiveness is conditional, or unconditional. Luke 11:3 reads, Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Now, we have the full picture here. When the Lord referenced forgiveness in the other passages, He was not referencing an unconditional forgiveness, but, as Luke 11:3 says, the forgiveness He mentioned was a conditional forgiveness (conditioned upon whether or not there is repentance).
So, with all of this biblical evidence in mind, here is the full idea and answer:
Forgiveness is commanded.
We will not be forgiven by God if we do not forgive.
We can only forgive when God forgives (when the sinner repents).
Forgiveness is conditional.
If we say that we forgive someone that has not repented, we are, quite literally, doing something that GOD WILL NOT DO, and therefore, doing something that we must not do as well! Since God is our perfect example of forgiveness, we must follow His lead when it comes to forgiving as He would have us to. Two parties can never be reconciled if both parties are not willing. In order for one to be in a right relationship with God, they must desire it, just as He does! The same goes with our relationships with one another. If one does not desire to repent, then we can never have true reconciliation. It is not that we do not WANT to forgive, but we, just as God, simply CANNOT do so. This, though, does not mean that we act rudely or have malicious or angry feelings towards someone who has not repented. We don’t hold grudges, but we are to show them the love of God in encouraging them to do what He wants all men to do—come to repentance (Gal. 6:1, 2; 2 Peter 3:9; Jam. 5:19, 20). So, as Christ did, let us have a forgiving spirit. Let us desire the repentance of individuals who are in such great need of the Lord’s forgiveness!
Q & A #2 Marco Arroyo
Q: What are the seven spirits mentioned in Revelation 1:4?
A: When it comes to a study of the book of Revelation, we must first understand how the book itself is to be studied (for the most part). The Lord wanted to give a message to the Christians in the first century who were suffering because of persecution. However, He gave the message to them through the use of figurative language. Revelation 1:1 says, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John”. That word in the Greek means, “to make clear,” something that the Lord wanted to do for them. However, it is of utmost importance to remember that this message would not be given in direct literal language, but in the use of great figurative language. The purpose of using figurative language that was familiar to Jewish people in that time was to veil the message to outside readers. It is very likely that the reason Revelation was written in this way was so that the Romans would not discover its message of hope and victory for the Christians since they didn’t know the figurative language that was used. A modern day example of it would be when someone “kicks the bucket.” This doesn’t literally mean they kicked a bucket, but it is a figurative way of saying they passed away. This language is what Revelation primarily employs.
Now, as we approach Revelation 1:4, we must note that some of the symbols in the book are numbers. In the Old Testament, numbers both repeated often and had great significance in what they represented. One of those numbers, seven, has great significance. The number “seven” (hepta) is related to the Hebrew word “Saba” which means to be “full,” or “abundant.”Hepta represents perfection or completeness.
In looking at the “seven spirits,” we see in every passage where the symbol is given, the seven spirits are all in heaven and in relation to God (Revelation 1:4, 3:1, 4:5, 5:6). Thirteen other times in the New Testament, we see that the Holy Spirit is said to be “of God” or, “of Jesus” (Acts 16:7; Galatians 4:6). Also, in looking at the usage of seven and what it related to, it appears the language in Revelation 1:4 in regards to the “seven spirits” to a certain extent is derived from Zechariah 4:1-6. Also, when you compare Zechariah 4:1-6 with Revelation 4:5, and Revelation 5:6, you see a relatively obvious relation in language which refers to the Holy Spirit. The “seven spirits” are not the seven churches, as those are mentioned in the direct context, thus showing that it cannot be the churches of Asia. Also, we never see the “seven spirits” worshipping God in the book of Revelation, as we do with the living creatures and the elders in chapter 4. Also, in chapter 5 the seven spirits have a close association with the slain Lamb (Christ). Revelation 5:6 says that the seven spirits were sent out into all the earth, which causes us to consider another piece of evidence that shows that the seven spirits is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. Christ, the slain Lamb (Revelation 13:8), promised to send the Holy Spirit into all the world after His ascension to heaven (Acts 2:33), thus giving us even more so the impression that the seven spirits are the Holy Spirit Himself.
While there are many more evidences, I believe these are sufficient to develop a firm position on this question. What are the seven spirits from Revelation 1:4 and other passages? It is the symbolic term used in the book of Revelation for the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the perfect and complete Godhead. I hope this answer has been of help to you!
Q & A #3 Marco Arroyo
Q: Do the Scriptures teach that there will be varying degrees of reward in heaven, and degrees of punishment in hell?
A: In any study, but especially in a study like this one, it is incredibly important to remember the biblical idea and definition of many things. This question comes up a good bit, especially when one reads passages like Luke 12:47, 48. It has been one that I have changed my view on in light of a few things that I encountered in my studies on this topic.
First, I understand why this question gets asked. Verses like the one in Luke surely do lend to the idea that some are punished with a worse punishment than others, and some receive a greater reward than others. Also, passages like 2 Peter 2:20 could definitely give off the idea that some receive a “worse” punishment than others. However, when passages seem to lend to this idea, I believe an important question to ask is, “Why?” Why is their latter end worse than the beginning? Why, as seen in verse 21 of the same chapter, would it have been better for them to have not known the way than to know it and turn away? Secondly, I believe we must get a biblical understanding of what heaven and hell will be like when men arrive there. Why is heaven great? It is great because in heaven there will be complete and total fellowship with God, where He will be worshipped by all in His presence forever. THAT is the beauty of heaven—God (Revelation 21:22, 23). Why is hell terrible? It is terrible because it is the absolute absence of God, and therefore, the absence of anything good. This results in the presence of EVERYTHING that is not—Mark 9:45, 46; Matthew 13:49, 50; 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
I believe these two points are of utmost importance in this discussion: If the terribleness of hell is the absolute absence of God (and it is), then everyone is experiencing the same absence of God’s presence. However, I believe passages like 2 Peter 2:20, 21 say it is worse for some because they had partaken of salvation and neglected it! They had “escaped the pollutions of the world” and were free in Christ, only to return to the world and lose everything. While on one hand, many go through live never experiencing salvation, there are some who are foolish enough to have it and give it away. Surely those who departed from the faith will eternally regret their decision, but that does not mean that the fires of hell are hotter for them than others, since they will experience the same absence of God as everybody else. The only difference will be the fact that they once knew Him. If the beauty and grandeur of heaven is the absolute presence of God (and it is), then all in heaven will experience the same level of His presence in their eternal home. The Bible surely does not teach that we will all be mindless robots in heaven. It teaches that we will know our past lives, and recognize how incomparable the things of this life were in comparison to heaven (Romans 8:18; Philippians 1:21-23). Many have died even moments after their baptism into Christ in obedience to the gospel. Will they have the same perception of eternity in heaven that Paul will? No, they lived different, and much shorter Christian lives than Paul. However, is their reward any different? How could it be, if both they and Paul will be eternally in God’s presence? If heaven is complete and total goodness in the God’s presence, there seems to be no reason why some will have a better time in God’s presence than others. If I am in heaven, I am eternally in His presence—that is why I want to be there. May all live in a way that reflects their desire to be in heaven!
Q & A #4 Marco Arroyo
Q: Can you please explain this? Matthew 25:1 - "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom." And this? 1 Peter 2:18 - "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."
A: Surely! I am answering under the assumption that you are asking for the basic teaching of those two passages. First, we’ll look at Matthew 25:1 and the parable of the ten virgins. Parables were a form of teaching that Jesus used often in His ministry. The word, “parable” comes from the Greek word, “parabole” and, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament words, “signifies a placing of one thing beside another with a view to comparison.” Many have rightly said that parables are “earthly stories with heavenly meanings.” In view of that, with every earthly example that Jesus gave, we must remember that Jesus was using known earthly examples in order to reveal a greater spiritual truth to the listeners. Now, the teaching of the parable is rather basic; especially when we understand what parables are and what they were for. All men are en route to eternity. However, some will prepare for it, and some will not. God desires that we never be like the foolish virgins, who were not concerned with preparing for the coming of the bridegroom. Jesus was encouraging them to be wise, and prepare themselves as they wait for His return (just as the wise virgins prepared themselves for the coming of their bridegroom). As we await the return of our Lord, let us NOT take it lightly by failing to prepare—losing the blessing of spending eternity in His presence. Let us be wise—living in holiness in anticipation of His coming. A good verse to add to this idea is 1 John 2:28: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
Secondly, let’s look at 1 Peter 2:18. It’s important to note the context of this verse (ultimately, the letter). Peter is writing to a people who were obviously suffering for Christ. However, in many different verses of the letter, he exhorts them to be blameless in their suffering. The word for “servants” in this text is best understood as a house servant, according to the Greek word. Historically, there were various ways one could end up as a servant. Some were prisoners of war, others were born into a family of servants, or others became servants to pay off a debt to one they owed (mainly referred to as bondservants). So, keeping in mind the context of the letter as well as the direct context of the verse, let’s look at the basic idea of it. Paul is giving the same instruction, generally speaking, that he has already been giving (1 Peter 2:11-17), but now to a specific group—those who are house-servants. He is telling them to submit themselves to their masters (those for whom they work), regardless of the character of the master. It is a real temptation to mistreat those who mistreat you, but that is something Christians must never do (Matthew 7:12, Galatians 6:9, 10). Notice verses 19-23. It means nothing to suffer because of our mistakes. But, faithfully suffering for Christ has eternal meaning and purpose. That is why, in all situations, we are to be faithful, knowing the great reward for those who do so despite persecution (James 1:2-12; Acts 5:41; Acts 14:22; Revelation 2:10).
I hope these answers have been helpful to you in your Bible study and knowledge of our great God!
Q & A #5 Marco Arroyo
Q: What does the Bible say about cremation?
A: In short, nothing. The Bible has no mention of the practice. Furthermore, while some make arguments against cremation, none of them are biblical (since there isn't a principle which would demonstrate the wrong in it).
For many, cremation is the best option for treatment of the remains of their loved one upon their death. However, some people (who very well may have good intentions) raise arguments against it, not realizing that their arguments are not founded in Bible teaching. They say things like, "How is God going to raise the person whose remains were burned to ashes?" The problem with that question is this: it assumes that God cannot form man from dust! Surely, the God of heaven, earth, and of all creation can form man from dust, right? In considering Genesis 2:7, God has is fully capable of bringing life from the dust of the ground. If He was powerful enough to do it then, He surely is powerful enough to do it again. Some also assume that the burning of the body of a faithful christian after they die would have some sort of impact on their salvation and eternal home. This, also, is not grounded in biblical truth. What if a christian dies in a fire, resulting in the total burning of their body? Is their eternal home affected because of the manner in which they died? Clear Bible teaching shows that one's eternal destiny is sealed upon their death, since the things man will be judged for will be the things that THEY did while in the body (2 Corinthians 5:10;Hebrews 9:27; Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14; Luke 16:22-31). The notion that when I die, if someone burns my body then God cannot raise me, is simply false. It is, in its entirety, a matter of personal choice and preference. Thank you for your inquiry! I pray that God will bless you in your studies and relationship with Him!