(taken from Q&A sermon)
If God is against sin, how could it have been God’s will to allow Judas to betray Jesus?
Jesus forewarned in Matthew 26:24, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (NIV). There is an interesting parallel earlier in Matthew 18:7: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (NIV, emphasis mine). I think Jesus is telling us that evil deeds are inevitable in this fallen world, but don’t let it be you who does those deeds. So Jesus separates the action from the person.
I can imagine a scenario in which Jesus would have still gone to the cross to pay the sacrifice for our sins without any betrayal by an insider leading to his arrest. As Jesus pointed out at his trial, “Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” I think God used the example of Judas to remind us that even someone who was so close to Jesus could let evil creep into their heart, and make their existence a net loss. Someone will be the traitor. Don’t let it be you. By the way, this is the very opposite of the logic recently espoused by re-arrested drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who, when Sean Penn asked him if he felt responsible for the high levels of drug addictions in the world, replied, “No, that is false, because the day I don’t exist, it’s not going to decrease in any way at all…” (Rolling Stone interview). In other words, “Someone will be the drug lord. It might as well be me.” Jesus would agree with his first statement but rebuke his second.
Before my husband passed away he spoke of experiencing angels. Do you think you have ever experience angels?
Hebrews 1:14 reminds us, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (NIV). Angels are sent to serve us, but we’re not sure how and when that happens. God doesn’t often give us a glimpse behind the scenes. So it’s hard to confirm or deny claims that people make about angelic encounters. I believe they happen, but I also believe that some people are mistaken, confused, or lying.
Right before and during his stoning, Stephen received a glimpse behind the heavenly veil: “Look… I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God… Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:56-60, NIV). I think Stephan needed this glimpse to remain strong through the pain, with the assurance that remaining true to God is worth it.
What do you think of the controversy concerning the movie, The Young Messiah?
I haven’t seen the movie, and I haven’t heard a lot of controversy about it. Probably the concern of some is that the movie depicts the childhood of Jesus, when there is almost no biblical material that tells us about his childhood, so the movie is necessarily fictional. Reviewer Adam Holz at Christian website Pluggedin.com writes, “Imagining what Jesus might have been like as a 7-year-old child is the kind of territory only someone who’s really comfortable with criticism would willingly wander into.” However, he feels the movie doesn’t go off too far into any crazy directions. Probably more significant than the fictional element is the fact that, reportedly, the movie sticks to biblical affirmations about Jesus’ virgin birth and Savior role.
Will we recognize loved ones in heaven, since Jesus says we will be like the angels?
This question refers to Jesus’ statement in Mark 12:25 “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (NIV). Not marrying doesn’t mean we won’t recognize one another. Paul refers to people he won over to Jesus as his “crown” (Philippians 4:1). I think it’s inconceivable that Paul’s earthly joy would not carry over into heaven where he sees people there as a result of his ministry. I see no reason why we wouldn’t recognize our loved ones. What I’m not sure of, however, if whether all relationship in heaven will be equal, or if we’ll be closer to some people than others. Will we know everyone in heaven? There would be a lot of people to know! “No one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4b, 1 Cor.2:9, NIV). It’s so wonderful that we can’t wrap our minds around it.
Does Ephesians 4 teach that Jesus descended into hell between his death and resurrection?
“’When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’ (What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)” (Ephesians 4:8b-10, NIV).
The whole chapter is about spiritual gifts. Rather than this teaching, “What comes down must go back up,” I believe Eph.4 is saying, “What goes up must come down.” Jesus ascended into heaven, but sent his Holy Spirit back to earth, to give gifts to believers. “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7, NIV). God (Jesus) went up at the resurrection and ascension, but God (the Holy Spirit) came down at Pentecost.
Some people think 1 Peter 3:19, which speaks of Jesus preaching to the “spirits in prison,” refers to a trip to hell. However, I think the best interpretation is that Jesus preached through Noah long ago, to the spirits (people) who didn’t listen to the warning about the flood, and are now in prison as a result. The preaching was so that they could avoid hell. Why preach to people who are already there? What’s the point?
Still others point to the Apostle’s Creed which states “He descended into hell.” However, the Apostles’ Creed wasn’t written by the apostles; it was a summary of their teaching. Furthermore, the earliest existent manuscripts of the Apostles’ Creed do not even contain the words “He descended into hell”; they were added later. I think the original version was just pointed out that Jesus was buried. There was no need for Jesus to go to hell, whether to free Old Testament saints (they weren’t waiting there) or to taunt hell’s residents (hell itself is punishment enough) or to take the keys from Satan (he never had the keys; he’s a future prisoner, not a jailer).
Is the Muslim God Allah the same as the Christian God?
No Muslim would agree that Allah is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians.1:3, NIV), a New Testament description of the true God. I would have to agree with Muslims here: we don’t worship the same God. The biblical description of Yahweh, the Father, the first member of the Trinity, is irreconcilable with the Muslim description of deity. The Bible often refers to false gods (Exodus 20:3) while other times pointing out that, strictly speaking, they are non-existent entities (Gal.4:8, 1 Cor.8:4).
Having said that, this is partly an issue of semantics. Are people worshipping the wrong god, or worshipping the right God in the wrong way? For missionary purposes, sometimes it’s helpful to establish continuity with the Muslim Allah. Rather than trying to convince Muslims to change gods, we should try to get them to understand what “Allah” is really like. We both agree that there is a Creator and Sustainer who is holy, just, and true, so there must be some common ground. Paul did this with the unknown “god” on Mars Hill: “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23, NASB).
There is likely some linguistic historical relationship between the generic Hebrew word for God, Elohim (often abbreviated El) and the Arabic word Allah. After all, Hebrew and Arabic are closely related languages. In fact, Islamic terminology seems to regularly borrow from Hebrew Old Testament words. For example, their word for hell, Jahannam, is derived from the Hebrew word Gehinnon and the Greek word Gehenna. The Hebrew word for hell originates from the Valley of Hinnom, outside the city of Jerusalem, a place of suffering where people burned their babies sacrificially.