KEY WORDS AND CONCEPTS OF THE BIBLE
By Juan Baixeras
The purpose of this paper is to give the student of the Bible an understanding of some key words and concepts of the Bible. The Bible is a Jewish document, and one has to interpret it with the definitions and an understanding of the customs of the people who wrote it. We cannot use our own modern definitions or the definitions of Bible scholars from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century who were educated in Greek philosophy and tried to interpret the Scriptures within that framework. Unfortunately, the interpretations given by these Bible scholars of the first few centuries are the interpretations generally accepted today throughout Christendom. We however, must discipline ourselves to discard these incorrect definitions and use the same definitions of words which the writers of the Bible used if we are to understand correctly what the author was trying to tell us. Understanding some key Jewish customs will also enlighten us to many Scriptures that have also been interpreted without reference to Jewish cultural practices. Let me give you an example of how a statement can be misconstrued by using different definitions of a certain word. If an Englishman says, "I am mad about my flat," he means that he is happy about his apartment. To an American, the same statement means that he is angry about his flat tire. These are two completely different meanings for the same statement in the same language in the same century. Now imagine being an Egyptian or Roman Bible scholar in the first few centuries with a Greek philosophical outlook on life, trying to interpret a Jewish document from a few centuries before. There were no Hebrew dictionaries or books explaining Jewish customs back then, so these men did the best that they could with what little knowledge they had of Jewish definitions and customs. Where they fell short of certain definitions they did not hesitate to use Greek philosophical definitions to explain a verse. These scholars believed that the Bible was a truth and that Greek philosophy was also a truth, and that two truths could be fused together in harmony. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Christianity and Greek philosophy are in complete opposition to each other and their fusing together can only be disastrous for anyone trying to understand either one of the two. To see a brief explanation of the influence of Greek philosophy on the early church, I suggest that you find "Platonism" in the Encyclopedia Britannica and look under the subtitle "Platonism and its influence on the early church." It is an excellent article.
Everything in this paper can be verified easily by picking up a Hebrew or Greek dictionary. I would strongly recommend the use of lexicons and expository dictionaries. I will list all the ones that I used.
If you cannot find one of the verses which I quote from the Old Testament, please look one verse above or below and it will be there. Some Bibles have a slight difference in their numeration of the Old Testament. There are also a few quotes from the Deuterocanonical books, specifically Sirach, which is a part of the Apocrypha. These are books that are not considered canonical except by the Catholic Church, but they provide us with an excellent alternate source for use in comparison and also as evidence for Jewish literary devices.
One more note before proceeding, the Old Testament is written in Hebrew and the New Testament is written in Greek. The Greek definitions of words in the New Testament are correct, it is when people substitute Greek philosophical definitions for words in the Old as well as the New Testament that problems arise. Make no mistake, Greek philosophical definitions of words are not the same as the Greek language definitions of words. We must discard the Greek philosophical definitions and keep the true meanings of the words that were used.
Spirit - The word spirit usually brings to mind a ghostly image that separates from our bodies at death and departs to either heaven or hell. This definition which most of us are so familiar with is 100% Greek philosophy. It is pure Platonism. To Greek philosophers the words "spirit" and "soul" are interchangeable, they mean the same thing. To a Jew they are vastly different.
Platonism - Believed that we must be capable of existing apart from our bodies. The flesh is evil. The body is a prison. It is bad for the soul (i.e. spirit) to be in the body. Platonism suggests the immortality of the soul, and the soul then becoming incarnate (Grolier’s Encyclopedia (GE)).
This definition of "spirit" if used, will completely change the meanings of many passages in the Bible, and lead to false conclusions. It has inherent problems right away. First, only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Second, I do not know of anyone that would dispute that judgment happens at the return of Christ. So how then can your spirit or soul go to heaven or hell at death if you have not yet been judged? This should be a clue that something is wrong with this definition of "spirit."
Let us now examine what "spirit" means to a Jew. The word "spirit" in Hebrew is "ruah" and in Greek it is "pneuma." The Jews used ruah in the same way that they used pneuma.
"Unlike the Greeks, who found dissolution of the body desirable (cf Socrates), Paul has a Jewish horror of it" (Roman Catholic New American Bible (NAB)).
Spirit - (ruah & pneuma) - Breath of life. The vital principal by which the body is animated (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (VED)).
In other words, it is the life force that God gives to people and animals that animates their bodies, which gives them life. When He takes it away they die.
Psalms 104:29 -30: "When you take away their breath (ruah), they perish and return to the dust from which they came. When you send forth your breath (ruah), they are created."
Ecclesiates 12:7: "And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath (ruah) returns to God who gave it."
Psalms 33:6: "When his spirit (ruah) departs he returns to his earth; on that day his plans perish."
This understanding is critical when one interprets a verse such as Luke 23:46:
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;" and when he said this he breathed his last.
If you use the Greek philosophical definition as most people do, you will arrive at the conclusion that at that moment Jesus’ Greek type spirit went to heaven to be with God. This of course is not possible because in John 20:17 when Jesus was raised from the dead after three days, he appeared to Mary of Magdala and told her:
"Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father."
Jesus is clear that he has not yet been to the Father. Where has he been for three days? He has been in Sheol, the pit, the grave, the earth. Jesus himself tells us in John 12:32:
"And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself."
Jesus has been dead as Scripture says of him. On the third day God resurrected him. Also, if your spirit is in heaven you are not truly dead.
If we use the Jewish definition of spirit it will make perfect sense. Jesus’ breath of life returned to the Father and he died and was in the earth for three days. There is then no conflict with John 20:17.
The second definition of "spirit" is:
Spirit - The word is used of one’s mind or thinking. It is often used of a man’s mind-set, disposition, or temper. Purpose (VED).
This definition is still used today. An article in Flying Careers magazine called "The Spirit of Volunteering" had a sentence which read:
"Many organizations provide opportunities for those in the spirit."
This phrase sounds like something right out of the New Testament, but as we all know, the writer is simply saying that many organizations provide opportunities for those in the right frame of mind. With this definition we can better understand a verse like
1 Corinthians 7:17:"But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit (mind).
In other words, he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in mind, mind-set, attitude, thinking, or in purpose, which are all synonymous. We are told in Philippians 2:2 to have the same mind as Christ. Here are some other examples. Try substituting one of the given definitions where it says "spirit" and you will get a clearer meaning of the verse.
Numbers 5:14: "Or if a man is overcome by a spirit of jealousy."
1 Corinthians 2:12: "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God."
Soul - As was mentioned earlier, to a Greek philosopher spirit and soul are interchangeable, they mean the same thing. To a Jew however, they are not. Neither in Hebrew nor Greek does Soul mean something that is separable from the body. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states:
"The Hebrew system of thought does not include the combination or opposition of the terms "body" and "soul," which are really Greek (philosophy) and Latin in origin."
Let’s take a look at some definitions:
Soul (Heb. nepes) - 1. living being, self, life, person. 2. The inner person, seat of emotions and passions (VED & The Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB)).
Soul (Gk. psuche) - 1.own self, the natural life of the body. 2. The seat of feelings, desires, affections, aversions (VED & Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (TGEL)).
In both languages the definitions are almost identical. When a person or animal receives the breath of life (spirit) he becomes a living soul (a living being). Example:
Genesis 2:7: "The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life (ruah), and so man became a living soul (nepes)."
Here are some other examples of the usage of the word "psuche:"
Acts 15:24: "Since we have heard that some of our members who went out without mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind (psuche)."
Matthew 10:39: "Whoever finds his life (psuche) will lose it, and whoever loses his life (psuche) for my sake will find it."
These are excellent examples. Genesis is self-explanatory. Acts 15:24 uses the definition of "the seat of your emotions." When your peace of mind is disturbed it really means that you are emotionally upset. Matthew uses the definition of "life" for psuche. This is what "soul" means to a Jew. It is never used to imply that it is something separable from the body. Even the definition of "the seat of your emotions" does not come close. Your emotions cannot be separated from you. When you die, your emotions die with you. These are the definitions that one must keep in mind when reading the Bible in order to understand the meanings of the verses as the writer intended.
YHWH - Is referred to as the Tetragrammaton. It is the name of God. It is unpronounceable. People have inserted vowels in-between the consonants in order to pronounce it as Yahweh. Most scholars agree that Jehovah is an incorrect translation of Yahweh. Among the Israelites, the veneration which came to be accorded to the name of God approached superstition (New American Bible Dictionary (NABD)). The Israelites did not dare pronounce the name and forbade even the use Yahweh. In place of this word whose consonants were written out, the reader had to read Adonai (LORD). This word which is a reference to YHWH should not be confused with "adoni," which is a title of respect used for men. They are similar in spelling, but vastly different in meaning. This custom of verbally substituting Adonai for YHWH continues to exist in present-day Judaism. Christian translators have used this Jewish oral custom when translating today’s Bibles, and substitute literally "LORD" in capital letters for the Tetragrammaton. They usually do include a footnote of explanation. But the word is YHWH not LORD. Yahweh is the only God, there are no others. Isaiah 45:5 says it plainly:
"I am YHWH and there is no other, there is no God besides me."
This is a good time to review a few verses on creation (there are many) which show that YHWH created everything alone, by himself (Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:25, Exodus 20:11 Jeremiah 10:10, Jeremiah 27:4). People will argue that Jesus is included in the name YHWH. This could not be farther from the truth. Lets look at Psalm 110:1:
"YHWH says to my Lord: Take your throne at my right hand while I make your enemies your footstool." Vv4 "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Mechizedec."
This is the Old Testament verse most quoted in the New Testament. Jesus uses it of himself. Nobody will dispute that "my Lord" is a reference to the Messiah. The Messiah is supposed to sit at the right hand of God. The Messiah is a priest in the order of Melchizedek. So we have a verse in which the only God YHWH is speaking to the Messiah who is Jesus. Common sense shows us that Jesus the Messiah is not included in the name YHWH. If he were, then I would have to understand this verse as saying that God said to Himself, I myself will come and sit next to myself. An outcome from this conclusion is that Jesus the Messiah is not the one true God and that he had nothing to do with creation. It is confusing when one sees this verse with LORD substituted for YHWH. Then it reads:"The LORD said to my Lord." All this does is create confusion. The word is YHWH.
Messiah - Most of us are more familiar with the Greek translation of this word, which is "Christos" or "Christ" in English. People have made this title of Jesus into Jesus’ surname. But it is not his name, it is his title. Jesus Christ means Jesus the Christ (Messiah). When we say that we are Christians, we are saying that we are Messianist, or followers of the Messiah. The definition of Messiah has been practically lost. A proper understanding of this title is critical if we are ever going to fully understand who Jesus is.
Messiah - Hebrew word signifying "one who has been anointed." The anointed agent of Yahweh. The kings of Israel were anointed with oil in the name of God, which symbolized his investiture with the Spirit of God. The term Messiah was later used to designate a "future king," an expected royal leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel. A king who would make all things new, consecrated as Yahweh’s vicegerent in Israel. This son of David, who was expected by the Jewish nation, was the Messiah par excellence, a term that has been rendered in Greek by Christos (NABD & The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, pg 344 (ZEB)) .
That the Messiah is supposed to be a king is a well-known fact by anyone who has studied the Bible in depth. Because it was customary to anoint kings, the phrase "The LORD’s anointed" became a synonym for "king" (ZEB, vol.1, pg. 171). This fact can be verified by many verses. Even on the cross the inscription read, "The king of the Jews" (Mark 15:26). I will cover a few verses and then list some more for your own study:
Mark 15:32: "Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross."
John 1:40 & 49: "We have found the Messiah…Rabbi, you are the Son of God; the king of Israel."
Luke 19:38: "Blessed is the king (Jesus) who comes in the name of the Lord (YHWH).
Other verses: Jeremiah 23:5, Daniel 7:13, Psalms 2:6, Zechariah 9:9, Acts 17:7, 2 Timothy 4:1. There are many more. The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible vol. 4 pg.200 says:
"If God’s purpose is not to be defeated, the true Messiah = King as God’s authentic Servant is the only answer. In Heb. Categories the remedy is centered upon a person and not upon an abstract doctrine or an ideal system. There can be no Messianic kingdom without God’s anointed King."
As we can see, the Messiah is an actual king of Israel, the ideal king of Israel. He is a man who is anointed by God’s spirit. The Messiah is able to perform mighty signs because God has anointed him with His Spirit, not because he is God. It is God working through Jesus. These three verses explain this point better than I ever could:
Acts 10:38: "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."
Acts 2:22: "Jesus of Nazareth was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know."
Matthew 12:18: "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him."
All the Old Testament Messianic prophecies speak of a man anointed by God’s Spirit. None of them mention that the Messiah is supposed to be God. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible vol.4 pg.201 states of the Messiah:
"But at all times he is the one who acts in the power and under the guidance of the God of Israel."
The Jews today (because they failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah) are still waiting for the Messiah to come. But if you ask a rabbi who the Messiah is supposed to be (as I did), he will tell you what all these sources have said, that he will be a man anointed by God’s Spirit. We must always remember that the Messiah is the ideal anointed king of Israel who will reign in God’s kingdom to come, the Messianic kingdom. The confusion lies in that God did not come AS Jesus, He came IN Jesus.
Son of God - This title for Jesus has been given meanings and attributes that were never intended. People have erroneously used the human father-son relationship to describe this title of Jesus’. They have thought that since a human son has the actual essence (made of the same matter) of his father, that therefore, this title implies that Jesus being the Son of God is of the same essence of God. This conclusion will lead you right into the Doctrine of the Trinity. This is the formula they adopted at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD when they said:
"The Son is of the same substance as the Father."
It was at this council that Jesus was first made God. The Holy Spirit interestingly enough was not included in the formula. It was included fifty-six years later at another council. Let’s see what this title really means:
Son of God - In the Old Testament Israel is described as God’s first-born (Exodus 4:22) and is called His son. There is therefore precedence for calling the Messiah "Son of God" for he is Israel’s representative par excellence (ZEB, vol.4, pg.203-204).
"Son of God" denotes an intimate relationship with the Father. It is obvious that sonship must not be understood in a crude pagan way. This bears out Dalman’s contention that the Hebrew concept of "son" does not denote an extensive circle of relationships" (ZEB, vol.4, pg. 205). Adam was called the "son of God" (Luke 3:38), God calls King Solomon His "son" in 1 Chronicles 28:6.
For Paul, "Son of God" is essentially a Christological description expressing "the Son’s solidarity with God" (ZEB, vol.4, pg.204). Closeness to the Father is the basic meaning of "Son of God"(Ibid). This closeness was a relationship that was shared by God’s anointed kings of Israel. Since Jesus is the ideal king of Israel, he is naturally the ideal Son of God. This is how the term came to be synonymous with Messiah and king of Israel. They are all different ways of saying the same thing.
The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible vol. 4 pg. 204 states:
"The last chapter of the first epistle of John makes every possible emphasis upon the principle that Sonship is the mark of Messiahship. The same is the case with the fourth gospel where the Son of God is synonymous with Messiah and occurs more frequently than any other title. Haenchen maintains that the same equation:
Messiah = Son of God = Son of Man
applies to Mark’s gospel. The same can be said of the rest of the New Testament."
Aspects of Monotheism pg.90 states:
"The notion that the Davidic king was the son of God is well established in the Hebrew Bible in 2 Samuel 7:14 and in Psalm 2:7. It was only natural then that the coming messianic king should also be regarded as the Son of God. To say that the king was the son of God, however, does not necessarily imply divinization."
This is the meaning of the title "Son of God." Messiah = Son of God = king of Israel = Son of Man. The Messiah does have the closest and most intimate relationship with the Father. Let’s take a look at some verses to confirm this.
"The kings of the earth rise up, and the princes conspire together against the LORD and His anointed (Messiah)"… "I myself have set up my king on Zion (Israel)"… "The LORD said to me, "You are my son" (Psalm 2:2,6-7).
Here we see God speaking of the Messiah using all three titles; Messiah, king of Zion, and son.
"He first found his own brother and told him, "We have found the Messiah"…"Rabbi, you are the Son of God: you are the King of Israel" (John 1:41& 49).
John cannot be clearer on this title; the Son of God is the King of Israel. This is the Jewish meaning of "Son of God." Any other definition will take away from the true meaning of the title into something that was never intended by its Jewish author.
Lord - Most people when they hear this title think immediately of God Almighty. As we covered earlier, God’s name is YHWH, which the Jews would orally substitute Adonai (LORD) for. This should not be confused with the title kyrios, which was used for Jesus throughout his whole ministry, even before he was crucified. Trinitarians will argue that this title of Jesus’ confirms his divinity, but even before his resurrection people addressed him as Lord. Why? For the same reason that many other people in the Bible and in his day were addressed as Lord. It was a title of respect and reverence. In the same fashion that there was a lord of a castle, Jesus is Lord of the kingdom of God. Moses is referred to as lord in Numbers 32:27:
"The Gadites and Reubenites answered Moses, Your servants will do as you command, my lord."
"Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said: Pardon, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood near you here"(1 Samuel 1:26).
"David stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul, My lord and my king"(1 Samuel 24:9).
As Scripture proves, Moses, Eli, and Saul are referred to as lord, but this does not mean that they are God. It is a title of respect and reverence. There are many more verses like these.
Lord - its meaning signified nothing more than "sir," a title of respect, or to "master," in the sense of "rabbi" (ZEB, vol.3, pg.960 & NABD).
There is an excellent example in John 4:11: Here the Samaritan woman has just met Jesus, he has not yet told her that he is the Messiah. They have just met, yet she addresses him as kyrios, which in the New American Bible is translated as "sir."
"The woman said to him, Sir (kyrios), you do not have a bucket and the cistern is deep."
The word in this passage is kyrios. It is applied to Jesus, and it is used as a term of respect, as "sir."
The Apostles used this title as a means of respect and also as "master" in the sense of "rabbi." They considered Jesus also a rabbi. John 1:49 states:
"Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel."
Kyrios (lord) however acquired a different meaning in Greek speaking communities acquainted with Hellenistic cults and Caesar worship. These scholars maintain that the deification of Jesus could have taken place only outside Israel, i.e. in a Hellenistic environment (W. Bousset, R. Bultman, and more recently W. Kramer).
The Apostles and the people referred to Jesus as lord long before he was ever crucified. They did not consider Jesus to be God when they used this title, and neither should we.
God - In today’s modern society when we use the word "God" we mean Almighty God. But back in the days of the Old Testament and in Jesus’ time, "God" did not always mean Almighty God. In Psalm 82:6 God refers to earthly rulers as "gods." In
1 Corinthians 4:4 Satan is called the "god" of this age." Does that mean that they are God Almighty? Of course not. The last usage of this word is the most important one.
The Hebrew king in his court was addressed as "god," not because the people thought that he was God, but because he represented God to the people. God is said to rule the people of Israel through the Hebrew king. In that sense the king of Israel sits on the throne of God. This is why he is addressed as "god," not because anyone thought that he was God. Here are a few examples that illustrate this point:
1 Chronicles 28:5: "He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the LORD’s royal throne over Israel."
1 Chronicles 29:23:"Thereafter Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD (YHWH) as king in place of his father David."
These verses mean that God is ruling His people (Jerusalem) through Solomon, God’s representative on earth. God imparts his majesty to the king. This can be seen in Sirach 10:4-5:
"Sovereignty over the earth is in the hand of God, who raises up on it the man of the hour; Sovereignty over every man is in the hand of God, who imparts his majesty to the ruler."
Remember that Jesus is the ideal Hebrew king. God will rule the New Jerusalem (Christians) in the kingdom of God through the Messiah, the king of Israel.
With this understanding of the word "God" and how it is used in reference to Hebrew kings, we can now comprehend Hebrews 1:8-9, and John 20:28.
Hebrews 1:8-9 is quoting Psalm 45:7-8. The Roman Catholic New American Bible states the following in its footnotes on Psalms 45:7-8. The Psalm reads:
"Your throne, O God, stands forever; your royal scepter is a scepter for justice. You love justice and hate wrongdoing; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings."
footnote 45:7: "Your throne O God:" The Hebrew king was called Elohim, "God" not in the polytheistic sense common among the ancient pagans, but as meaning "godlike," or "taking the place of God."
footnote 45:7: "god:" The king, in courtly language is called "god" representing God to the people.
Psalm 45:7-8 is written about the Hebrew king (most scholars believe it to be Solomon). Nobody in Solomon’s day thought that it meant that Solomon was God. They knew that it was a reference to the king of Israel. The Psalm talks about a throne, and it mentions a royal scepter. These are all things that are associated with a king. In verse 8 it even says "above your fellow kings."
The fact that the king of Israel is called "god" is crucial to the understanding of two verses in the New Testament. The first is Hebrews 1:8-9. The first thing that you will notice is that in talking about the Son (Jesus, the king of Israel) it is quoting Psalms 45:7. It is being used of the Son in the same manner as it was used of Solomon with the exception that Jesus is the ideal king of Israel, and as such, he will sit on the throne of God and represent God to the New Israel in the Messianic kingdom. This is what this verse means to a Jew. If we use our modern-day definition for God, it will lead us to the conclusion that this verse is implying that Jesus is God. This conclusion will have a major conflict in verse 8 where it says:
"Therefore God, your God, anointed you with the oil of gladness."
The conflict is that if we make Jesus "God," and he has a God, then there are two Gods. This is obviously not an option for Christianity.
The second verse where we see similar language is in John 20:28. It says:
"My Lord and my God."
The resurrection of Jesus paid for our sins and proved that he was indeed the Messiah, the king of Israel. Until Jesus appeared to the Apostles, they had serious doubts that he would be resurrected. Thomas, now known as "Doubting Thomas" did not even believe the other Apostles when they told him that Jesus had appeared to them. He stated:
"That unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe"(John 20:25).
A week later when Thomas and the other Apostles were in a locked room, Jesus appeared to them and told Thomas to put his fingers in his nailmarks, to see his hands, and to touch his side. When Thomas saw that Jesus had truly resurrected, it proved to him that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the king of Israel. This is why he said, "My Lord and my God"(king). Let us compare this verse to a similar verse in meaning in which David is addressing the king of Israel, King Saul. 1 Samuel 24:9 says:
"David also stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul, "My lord and my king."
My lord and my God = My lord and my king.
(John 20:28) (1 Samuel 24:9)
This is very similar language to John 20:28. They both mean the same thing. It was a common way of addressing the Hebrew king in those times. It was an acknowledgment of Jesus’ kingship, not his deity.
Luke 2:11 states:
"A savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord."
Acts 2:36 states:
"God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified."
Lord and Messiah = Lord and king = Lord and God.
If Jesus had revealed at that time that he was God, then why is it that in all the letters of the New Testament written after this event, not one of the writers ever refer to Jesus as "God Almighty," or "YHWH" or any other term for God. They do however, mention the God of Jesus Christ over and over again. John, who wrote this verse, even says in 1 John 4:12:
"No one has ever seen God."
Thousands of people saw Jesus. If we use the Jewish definition, we have no conflict. If we use our own definitions, we run into a myriad of problems. John wrote his gospel to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, not to prove that Jesus was God. John 20:31:
"But these things are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God."
Flesh (sarx)- When we think of this word, we think of our skin. This is not what sarx, which is translated as "flesh" means.
Flesh - 1.(spec.) a human being (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). All that is essential to manhood (VED).
This definition is very important when we read 2 John verse 7. It states:
"Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the spirit of the antichrist."
For an accurate interpretation, let us turn to the Translator’s New Testament, a fine document produced by thirty-five scholars, seventeen being New Testament specialists in universities and theological colleges, and eighteen missionary linguists (published by the British and Foreign Bible Society, 1973). Here is their interpretation:
"Many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not accept that Jesus came as a human being. Here is the deceiver and the antichrist."
2 John verse 7 was written to combat gnosticism (Greek philosophy) that was claiming (even in John’s day) that Jesus was not human. The Gnostics believed that there is God and there is mankind, and that there are mediators between God and man. Jesus to a Gnostic was just one of these mediators. These mediators were said to be either Greek type spirits or angels. They were not human. This is why John is so adamant about people knowing that Jesus is completely human in every way. He is not a spirit, an angel, or a Godman. He is a human being.
This is why Hebrews 2:17 says:
"For this reason he (Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every way."
I, like other Christians are considered to be Jesus’ brothers, and I am positive that I am not God.
Face - When we hear the word "face" we automatically think of the front side of a human head which consists of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc. Sometimes in the Scriptures, "face" just means face, but most of the time it has another meaning. This meaning will come into play in verses in which someone says, "I saw the face of God." What does this mean? Did they actually see the face of God? In the Scriptures it says that no man can see God and live, Exodus 33:20:
"For no man sees me (YHWH) and still lives."
So how do we reconcile verses like the one above with verses in which someone says that they saw the face of God. It is simple if we use the Jewish definition of "face." If we insert our own definition we will come to the conclusion that the Bible contradicts itself. Let’s take a look at the Jewish definition of "face."
Face - word that often designates God himself in His relations with man. It is found in the expressions:
"To contemplate the Face," in the sense of to be admitted into the presence of God.
"To see the Face," that is, obtain an understanding of the divine transcendence (NABD).
Now we can understand a verse like Psalms 27:8-9:
"Come, says my heart, "seek God’s face;" your face LORD do I seek! Do not hide your face from me."
This verse could be understood to mean: "Come," says my heart, "seek the presence or wisdom of God…Do not hide your wisdom from me."
With this understanding we can make sense of the Scriptures. To see the "face" of God means to receive and understand God’s divine message, not to actually see Him. Now, these following Scriptures make sense:
John 1:18: "No one has ever seen God."
John 6:46: "Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God."
1 John 4:12: "No one has ever seen God."
1 Timothy 6:16: "Whom no human being has seen or can see."
No one has ever seen God. To do so would be to die. Yet, thousands of people saw Jesus.
Name - This word of course brings to mind an actual name, such as John Doe. But what does it mean to a Jew.
Name - 1. designates more than the external person; it tends to express his basic character, his personality. We might say it is an emanation of the person himself. 2. authority of, expressing attributes, in acknowledgment or confession of (NABD & VED).
This definition helps us in a verse like John 17:26:
"I (Jesus) made known to them your name and I will make it known."
Jesus obviously did not come to inform the Apostles that God’s name is YHWH. He came to explain God’s character, His attributes, His will, so that we could come to truly know God and follow His ways. This understanding of the word "name" along with the definition of the next word "baptize" will clear up another misunderstood verse.
Baptize - We always think of being baptized in water, either as infants or adults. Yes, this definition is used many times in the New Testament, but there is also another meaning that we must store in the back of our minds.
Baptize - 1. to unite together, to become closely bound to (TGEL & VED).
Now we will put together the definitions of "name" and "baptize" to get the true meaning of Matthew 28:19. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words has this commentary on this verse:
"The phrase in Matthew 28:19, ‘baptize them in the name’ would indicate that the baptized person was closely bound to, or became property of, the one in whose name he was baptized."
With these definitions we can safely paraphrase this verse as follows:
"Go out into the world and introduce or bring them into the knowledge of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
Which is exactly what they did. The Apostles had to go into the world and explain to the Gentiles who God is, who the Son (The Messiah) is, and also about the power that they would receive from God’s Spirit. If we take it to mean that we are to water baptize people in the actual name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, then why is it that no one in the Bible ever uses this formula to water baptize believers?
There is a very strong position held by many scholars that this verse was not part of the original text of Matthew’s Gospel, as Eusebius, a third century Christian apologist, quoted the text in a shorter form rather than the form that now appears in the gospel. It reads,
"Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in my name" (which is in agreement with the paraphrase that was just given above).
One commentator writes,
"There is much probability in the conjecture that it is the original text of the gospel, and that in the second century the longer clause supplanted the shorter ‘baptizing them in my name.’ An insertion of this kind, derived from liturgical use, would have rapidly been adopted by copyist and translators" (The International Critical Commentary, by Willoughby C. Allen Volume 26, pp. 307-308).
This position has strong Biblical support by the fact that the Apostles at no recorded instance baptize using the formula of "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" as Jesus supposedly commanded them to do. They always baptize "In the name of Jesus Christ."
Also the parallel passage in Mark 16:15-18 does not mention in any way this trine formula, and the Gospel of Mark is believed to be written before Matthew. But these are the results of using definitions that are different than the ones that the writers used.
Logos - This word is translated in English as "Word". It is not as some would have you believe Jesus’ middle name. Jesus is not called Jesus Logos of Nazareth. This word has an actual meaning which has been almost completely lost due to the Greek philosophical interpretation of John 1:1-3 & 14. For a full and detailed explanation of John 1:1-3 &14 please refer to Understanding: The Father, Son, Holy Spirit pg.26. In this paper I will cover only the basics of this verse. First, Jesus is not the "Word." The same word "logos" appears in Revelation 20:4-5:
"I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word (logos) of God."
Notice that they were beheaded for their testimony to Jesus AND for the logos of God. Jesus and the word of God are not the same thing. Word of God in this verse means God’s plan of salvation for us (NAB), i.e. the kingdom of God message. So what does "logos" mean?
Logos - 1. Denotes an internal reasoning process, plan, or intention, as well as an external word. 2. The expression of thought. As embodying a conception or idea (NAB & VED).
I will give you a brief paraphrase of John 1:1-3 using the definitions for "logos:"
"In the beginning was God’s plan, will, or idea for our salvation. It was present in his mind, and God’s plan or will possessed all the attributes of God."
The very Trinitarian Roman Catholic New American Bible has this comment on this verse:
"Lack of a definite article with "God" in Greek signifies predication rather than identification."
Predication - to affirm as a quality or attribute (Webster’s Dictionary).
So how does the Word (logos) become flesh in John 1:14? Let me use an example which most of us can relate to. We are all familiar with the expression, "was this baby planned?" Let’s say it was planned. You and your wife had a plan to have a baby. You had a logos, a plan. Your plan (logos) became flesh the day that your baby was born. In the same way, God’s plan of salvation for us became a reality, became flesh, when Jesus was born. This verse is probably one of the biggest culprits in the creation of the trinity. The reason being that to someone educated in Greek philosophy such as the early church fathers of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, centuries, logos had an entirely different meaning. Tertullian who was responsible for much of the creation of the trinity was a Stoic lawyer. The Stoics defined "logos" as the "divine principle of life." Which is basically a definition of God. With this definition you are going to arrive at a completely different interpretation than what John intended. You will interpret it something like this:
"In the beginning was the divine principle of life, and the divine principle of life was with God, and the divine principle of life was God. Then, the divine principle of life became flesh."
With this definition you arrive at the conclusion that the divine principle of life, which is God, became flesh. Now you have God’s essence in two places at once. The explanation for this obvious problem came in the form of the Doctrine of the Trinity. Then you have God’s essence in flesh, so the description of Jesus becomes that he is fully God and fully man. These concepts come straight out of Greek philosophy. Greek philosophers believed that man was composed of flesh and a divine spark.
You decide which definition is correct, Greek philosophy’s or John’s Jewish definition.
Age - This word has been translated as eternal, world, and universe. When this word is translated as "eternal," such as "you will have eternal life," it means "you will have life in the age to come."
Age (aion) - 1. An unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity. 2. This word is also used to describe this age, i.e. this time period we are in now, and the time period to come, i.e. the Messianic age (TGEL).
This definition will help us immensely in our understanding of Hebrews 1:2:
"He spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the world (ages)."
If one uses the wrong definition, you will come to the conclusion that the Son created the world. This will go in complete opposition to many verses that say that YHWH created everything alone, by Himself. Examples: Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:11, Isaiah 37:16, Exodus 20:11, Jeremiah 10:10, and Jeremiah 27:4. Like these there are many more in the Old and New Testaments. So how did God through Jesus create the world? Strong’s Greek Dictionary tells us how:
aion - by implication the world; specifically a Messianic period.
This clears up any misunderstandings about this verse. God through Jesus created the Messianic age to come. This is confirmed by Hebrews 2:5 where it summarizes what he has been speaking about:
"For it was not the angels that he subjected the world to come, of WHICH WE ARE SPEAKING."
Hell - This word has inspired fear in millions of people throughout the centuries. It has been denoted as a place for the souls (Gk. philosophical def.) of the wicked of everlasting torment. This is the place where Satan tortures the wicked forever. Words like fire and brimstone and scenes like in Dante’s drawings come to mind when one mentions hell. Fortunately, this is not the correct meaning. It is another word that must be examined with the proper definitions.
The Bible does not give us this image of a God who tortures individuals for eternity without compassion, on the contrary, it talks about a loving God who is extremely merciful and compassionate. He does punish the wicked, but only after He has given them every chance possible to repent and change their ways. Even when He has punished individuals or cities, it has been a just punishment that fit the crime. The punishment has been destruction, i.e. death, not everlasting torment. The Catholic Church adopted this concept of everlasting torment and it served to instill fear in the people and thus control their behavior. Whether it was adopted by the church to control behavior, or whether it was just adopted and the result was that it controlled behavior is unknown.
Hell - In the KJV, the word "hell" is used thirty-one times in the Old Testament; in each case it is a translation of Sheol, which was the place where both the ungodly and the godly were to go at death. Ten times in the New Testament, hell is a translation of Hades, which is the New Testament counterpart of Sheol, the place where all of the dead dwell. On eleven other occasions, however, it is used to translate Gehenna, which refers to the place of the punishment of the ungodly, and therefore to "hell" as the term is used today (ZEB, vol.3, pg. 114). This unfortunately is a bad interpretation, which will only serve to confuse the reader. It would have been much better had the translators left the word Gehenna and not substituted "hell" instead. The correct translation of hell is Hades or Sheol.
Hell is the English translation of the Greek word Hades, which is a translation of the Jewish word Sheol. Hell = Hades = Sheol. Gehenna is the Jewish word that denotes an eternal fire, but not as what we have been told to believe as "in burning in the fires of hell forever." Let’s see what these words really mean to a Jew.
Sheol - The ancient concept of the abode of the dead (the netherworld, in Hebrew, Sheol) supposed no activity or lofty emotion among the deceased (NABD). It is the final resting-place of all men. Sheol is parallel to Hebrew words for pit, hell, corruption, decay, and destruction (VED). It is the final resting-place of all men until the return of Christ. There is no reason, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol. It is the sleep of the dead.
"For there will be no work, nor reason, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Hades - is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol (ZEB, vol.3, pg.7). It corresponds to Sheol in the Old Testament and New Testament (TGEL).
As we can see, Sheol = Hades = Hell. They are the same thing. It is the pit, the grave. It is not a place of consciousness nor torment. So where do we get this idea of "burning in hell forever?" We get it from a misunderstanding of Gehenna. Hell in Greek should not be translated as Gehenna, but as all the sources above say, as Hades.
Gehenna - The Biblical word "Gehenna" refers to the valley of Hinnom. This valley was the location of the notorious sacrificial offering by fire of children into the fiery arms of the god Molech by Ahaz and by Manasseh. The Jews so abhorred the place that after these horrible sacrifices had been abolished by King Joshia that they cast into it not only all manner of refuse, but even the dead bodies of animals and of unburied criminals who had been executed. The fires were always needed to consume the dead bodies and waste of Jerusalem (TGEL).
Gehenna was a continuous huge fire outside of Jerusalem that was used to burn refuse and dead bodies. When they threw a body into the fires of Gehenna it was destroyed. The fire was eternal because it was always burning outside the gates of Jerusalem. When you were cast into the fires of Gehenna, you were cast into the eternal fire and you were consumed by the fire and destroyed. Keep the purpose of Gehenna
(to destroy bodies and refuse) in the back of your mind as we go through some verses. Lets look at some examples:
Jude verse 7: "Sodom and Gomorrah… serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire."
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The cities are not being tormented in an eternal fire.
Matthew 7:19: "Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be thrown into the fire" (consumed & destroyed).
Matthew 5:29: "It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna"(and destroyed).
It is important to note that Jesus says that your whole body is thrown into Gehenna, not your Greek-type soul. The concept of your Greek-type soul going to hell to burn will not fit at all in this verse.
Matthew 13:39-41: "The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are the angels. Just as weeds are burned up with fire (destroyed), so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will cast them into the fiery furnace" (to also be destroyed).
The weeds are burned up with fire, they are consumed and destroyed. And just as the weeds are destroyed by fire (not tormented), so are all evildoers cast into the furnace of fire and destroyed.
2 Thessalonians 18-9: "Those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord."
Psalm 92:8-9: "Though the wicked flourish like grass and all evildoers thrive, they are destined for eternal destruction."
The penalty is eternal destruction.
Hebrews 10:26.27: "If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries."
The flaming fire of Gehenna, the furnace of fire, will consume (destroy) the adversaries.
With this understanding of "eternal fire," we can better understand a verse like Matthew 18:8:
"It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire."
Gehenna is the eternal fire that will destroy the adversaries. Eternal destruction is eternal punishment because you are dead for eternity. This is called the second death.
"Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. This pool of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name is not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire."
Death and Hades will be thrown into the fire, they will be destroyed. There is no more death and Hades in the kingdom of God. Anyone (sinners) whose name is not found in the book of life will also suffer the same fate. No one will say that death and Hades will burn in hell forever. They will be destroyed. Psalms 37:38 & 145:20 sum it up for us:
"Sinners shall all alike be destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off."
"The LORD keeps all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy."
Agency - The concept of agency will sound strange to us mostly because we are not familiar with the idea. To a Jew it was nothing uncommon. Many of our customs in the U.S., such as referring to something good as "bad" would completely confuse a scholar of the future who is trying to understand our culture unless he was aware of this custom.
Agency is best understood when we think of a type of ambassador. God has never been seen. His word (will) has come to many people, but he has never appeared personally. To many of us the verses of Abraham speaking with God who had appeared as a man will come to mind, but once you understand this concept you will see that it was not God, but his representative. Angels often fill this role, specifically the Angel of the LORD (YHWH). The Jews believed that it was normal to address the person who is sent on behalf of someone else as that person himself. This is why sometimes the angel of the LORD is seen as a completely separate being from God as in Zecharia 1:2 where the angel of the LORD is having an actual conversation with God, and at other times it seems as if they are the same being. You will always notice that these verses start with "the angel of the LORD," this is who is talking, the angel of the LORD, not God himself. The angel is speaking for God, and in that sense it is God speaking. The representative speaks many times in the first person, and it is common to address the representative as the person who sent him. An excellent example is in Esdras 5:43-56 (Apocrypha) where Ezra questions God’s spokesman, the angel Uriel, as though he were both creator and judge. Ezra uses the same style of address to Uriel ("my lord, my master) as he uses in direct petition to God (The Doctrine of the Trinity by Anthony Buzzard & Charles Hunting).
An easy way to see that the angel of the LORD is not God himself or Jesus is that he appears in the New Testament such as in Luke 2:9-13 to tell the shepherds that a savior has been born in the city of David. The angel of the LORD and Jesus are in the same place at the same time. People that claim that the angel of the LORD is God or Jesus in the Old Testament will have to explain how God is now really four in one, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and angel of the LORD, a quadrinity.
A.R. Johnson in a monograph entitled The One and the Many in the Israelite Conception of God, states the following regarding this form of speech:
"In Hebrew thought a patriarch’s personality extended through his entire household to his wives, his sons and their wives, his daughters, servants in his household and even in some sense his property. The "one" personality was present in the "many" who were with him. In a specialized sense when the patriarch’s as lord of his household deputized his trusted servant as his malak (i.e. his messenger or angel) the man was endowed with the authority and resources of his lord to represent him fully and transact business in his name. In Semitic thought this messenger-representative was conceived of as being personally-and in his very words-the presence of the sender" (Christology and the Angel of the LORD by John Cunningham).
Aspects of Monotheism pg.94 states:
"According to the "Son of God Text" from Qumran, when war ceases on earth, all cities will pay homage either to the "Son of God" or to the "people of God." Although homage in this passage involves political submission, worship in the ancient world was often considered analogous to submission to a great king. Each of these figures, to be sure, can be understood as God’s agent or representative, so that homage to given to them is ultimately given to God."
Let’s take a look at some examples of this form of speech:
"There an angel of the LORD appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush…When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush…But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh…"
(Exodus 3:2-4& 11).
The angel of the LORD appeared in the flaming bush and then proceeds to speak for God. Moses then answers the angel as if he were speaking to God. Notice that it says the angel of the LORD, it is an angel that is speaking for God. This can be confirmed by Stephen in Acts 7:30. He states the following in reference to this event:
"Forty years later, an angel appeared to him in the desert near Mount Sinai in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight."
The angel spoke out of the bush. It was God speaking through the angel. In this same event, God gave Moses the law and specifically the Ten Commandments. It says in Exodus 20:1-17:
"Then God delivered all these commandments: I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me." Etc.
But it is still God speaking through the angel. Stephen again verifies this in
Acts 7:35 & Acts 7:53:
"This Moses, whom they had rejected with the words, Who appointed you ruler and judge? God sent as both ruler and deliverer, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush."
"You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it."
The law was given to Moses through an angel. As a matter of fact, the whole episode on Mount Sanai was God speaking through the angels. Act 7:38 states:
"It was he who, in the assembly in the desert, was with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sanai and with our ancestors, and he received living utterances to hand on to us."
I have saved one of the clearest examples for last. It is Deuteronomy 29:1-6. In this example Moses is speaking to Israel. Then all of a sudden he is speaking in the first person as God. We all know that Moses is not God, it is God speaking through Moses to Israel.
"Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, "You have seen all that the LORD did in the land of Egypt before your very eyes to Pharaoh and all his servants and to all his land; the great testings your own eyes have seen, and those great signs and wonders. But not even at the present day has the LORD yet given you a mind to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear. I led you for forty years in the desert. Your clothes did not fall from you in tatters nor your sandals from your feet; bread was not your food, nor wine or beer your drink. Thus you should know that I, the LORD, am your God."
To someone who is not familiar with this literary device, it would seem that Moses is God. The quote starts off with Moses speaking as himself and ends with Moses speaking as God in the first person. But it is God speaking through Moses to Israel. There are many examples in the Bible of this custom of speech.
The idea is that God gives His authority to His representatives. This idea is pivotal in the understanding of Jesus because Jesus will be God’s representative par excellence, and Jesus will speak on behalf of God. Here are a few verses to illustrate the point of God giving His authority to His representatives:
"See I am sending you an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and heed his voice. Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin. My authority resides in him. If you heed his voice and carry out all I tell you, I will be an enemy to your enemies" (Exodus 23:20-22).
God sends the Israelites an angel to lead them on their way. God’s authority resides in this angel. Notice that if you heed the angel’s voice you will be carrying out all that God tells you because the angel speaks for God. The angel is God’s representative and thus has the authority of God, but the angel is not God. If we can understand this concept it will make our understanding of Jesus much easier. Jesus will represent God on earth and will thus speak for God and have His authority to forgive sins and to judge.
"For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God (John 3:34).
"For I do not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it" (John 12:49).
"And He has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man" (John 5:27).
"Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of God and the authority of His Anointed" (Revelation 12:10).
"But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings"(Matthew 9:6-7).
As you can see, Jesus is representing God to the people. He is speaking on behalf of God. Also notice that he has been given the authority, he did not possess it.
This is not a new concept, Moses said exactly this about the future Messiah in Deuteronomy 18:18:
"I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen, and will put my words in his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him. If any man will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it."
Let me now read you what The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible says in vol.1 pg.171 about the metaphorical meaning of being anointed. Remember, Jesus Christ means Jesus the Messiah, which means Jesus the Anointed.
"Since persons ritually anointed were believed to have received the holiness and virtue of the deity in whose name they were anointed, it was also believed that they received a special endowment of the Spirit of Yahweh (1 Samuel 10:10; 16:13). There was a transfer of divine powers and authority. By extension "to anoint" became a metaphor for the bestowal of God’s favor (Ps 23:5; 92:10-as parallelism shows), for the designation of someone to a particular place or office in God’s plan (Ps 105:15; Isa 45:1). Anointing indicated preparation for service and the gift of God’s Spirit. In reference to kings, the king became the vassal of Yahweh. Anointing conveyed divine authority."
Carefully notice that whomever God anoints (i.e. Jesus) receives an endowment of His Spirit, and because of that endowment he receives divine powers and God’s authority. Let’s review Acts 10:38 once again:
"How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."
Jesus’ place or office in God’s plan is as our Messiah. As we have shown earlier, God has given Jesus His authority on earth to do anything that He would do. This is why Jesus can forgive sins. In reality it is God forgiving sins through Jesus. Jesus is God’s representative par excellence. When you examine the Scriptures thoroughly you will notice that everything comes to us through Christ, such as grace, forgiveness of sins, etc. This is why Jesus is also called our mediator.
With an understanding of this concept, one can finally start to understand who Jesus really is. Also many passages of the Bible will come to life with a whole new meaning, a meaning that does not contradict other Scriptures. The Jewish meaning that was intended.
Kingdom of God – Most Christians have never even heard of the kingdom of God, and the ones who have heard the term have very little, or incorrect knowledge of it (for an excellent explanation of the kingdom of God I suggest reading The Kingdom of the Messiah or Have you Heard). This book and paper mentioned will list the numerous Scriptural evidence about the kingdom of God all the way from Genesis to Revelation. The kingdom of God is the theme of the Bible. It is God’s plan of salvation for us. It means "the effective rule of God over His people" (NAB). According to Jesus and the Apostles, this is the Christian goal, to enter into the kingdom of God. This is why Jesus came, to proclaim the kingdom of God. Dying on the cross is not the reason that Jesus came. Dying on the cross was necessary in order for us to enter into the kingdom of God. But the goal is to enter the kingdom of God. The New Testament never promises us heaven as our reward, it promises us entrance into the kingdom of God. This is the most important message in the entire Bible.
Why did Jesus come? Jesus tells us why he was sent in Luke 4:43:
"To the other towns also I must proclaim the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent."
If you summed up all the Scriptures that talk about the kingdom of God, it can be summarized as:
"The kingdom of God is an actual kingdom on earth, an ideal kingdom that the Messiah, the ideal king of Israel (Jesus), will rule in righteousness, justice, and peace. The resurrected saints (followers of Christ) will help Jesus in its administration. The capital will be in Jerusalem. God will rule the New Israel through the king of the New Israel, Jesus the Messiah"(The Coming of the Messiah by Anthony Buzzard).
Remember the titles of Jesus; Messiah, king of Israel, and Son of God. These are all titles used of the kings of Israel. They are royal titles. Jesus is the ideal king of the kingdom of God. See you in the kingdom!
Kingdom of Heaven – People have incorrectly taken this to mean that the kingdom of God is in heaven. This is a huge misunderstanding. This phrase is just another way of saying the kingdom of God. Let’s take a look at some sources to verify this claim.
"The kingdom of God was used to translate Old Testament expressions about God reigning. In the rabbinic literature outside the Targums the phrase used was "the kingdom of heaven." The two phrases are undoubtedly synonymous. The adoption of the latter was due to that same Jewish reverence for the name of God which led to the substitution of "LORD" for the name of "Yahweh" at the same time" (ZEB)
"Kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven are equivalen." (NABD).
It would be a mistake to invoke more into this phrase than it really means.
From heaven - When something is said to come "from heaven," it does not mean to a Jew that it was actually in heaven next to God. It means that it is a gift from God (NABD), in other words, that God sends the thing or person.
"Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will now rain down bread from heaven" (Exodus 16:4).
This verse is simply saying that the bread came from God. The bread did not pre-exist in heaven. This same definition has to be applied to John 3:31 & 34:
"But the one who comes from heaven is above all… For the one that God sent speaks the words of God."
We can see that Jesus is from heaven in the same way that the bread was from heaven, in that it was sent by God. Jesus in John 6:22-44 uses the analogy that he is the same as the bread that came from heaven in the desert. They are both sent by God, and both bring life, Jesus however, brings us eternal life.
"My Father gives you the true bread from heaven"(John 6:32).
"From heaven" means it is from God. It should not be taken as if it was actually in heaven.
Treasure in Heaven – Many people have taken a couple of verses that mention a reward in heaven as meaning that we will go to heaven as our reward. But is that what a Jewish writer means when he says something to that effect, or does he mean something else? Let us take a look at one such verse, Luke 18:
"Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven."
The Jews believe that everything good that God gives to us (our treasures), are kept in heaven until God decides to give them to us. In other words, our treasures in heaven are our blessings from God. Our ultimate treasure kept in heaven for us is when God will establish His kingdom on earth. When God gives us these treasures, they are said to have come from heaven (from God). To use an analogy that we are all familiar with, our money is kept in the bank, but we do not go to the bank to live, we receive our money from the bank and then go back home. This is what having "treasure in heaven" means to a Jew. It is kept there until it is given to us. Peter provides us with an excellent example of this literary device.
Peter is speaking about our inheritance, entrance into the kingdom of God which is our reward in 1 Peter 1:4:
"To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time."
As you can see, the inheritance is kept in heaven for us until the final time when it will be revealed to us. Paul also speaks of the hope that is reserved for us in heaven in Colossians 1:4:
"Because of the hope reserved for you in Heaven."
"Hope" is not sitting around in heaven. In Revelation 21:10 John is speaking about the New Jerusalem that will come out of heaven to the earth. Notice that it is coming from heaven and that it is from God.
"He took me in Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God."
The New Jerusalem was not actually in heaven, it just means that the New Jerusalem was reserved for us, and it is now being given to us by God.
IMMEDIACY - Is a supposed device of Old Testament prophecy whereby certainty that a predicted event will occur is expressed by depicting it as imminent (NAB). We see this literary device used by Jesus and the Apostles many times in the New Testament. It is used when Jesus or the Apostles say that the kingdom of God is at hand or near. It gives us the impression that the kingdom of God is going to be here any minute now. People have interpreted this literary device as if Jesus and the Apostles were expecting the kingdom to come right away, and were then disappointed when it did not come immediately. Jesus in Mark 13:32 tells us that even he does not know when the kingdom will come. If Jesus doesn’t know, then neither do the Apostles. What they do know is that the kingdom of God will come, it is a certainty! This is why they depict it as imminent.
CONCLUSION - We have covered some of the most important words and customs of the Bible. With these definitions and customs a person should be able to arrive at a better understanding of what the author was trying to tell us. Some people might say that the Bible is a difficult book to understand. It is only if you use definitions that are different from the people who wrote it. When you use their definitions you will find that a lot of the contradictions that you thought were there before, have now vanished. The Bible is not a difficult book to understand, people have made it a difficult book to understand.