Bible verse used in podcast:
- 1 Peter 3:15
- Revelation 20:10
- Revelation 12:9-10
- Proverbs 25:1-4
- John 3:16
- Romans 8:28
- John 14:15
You can’t ask God that Question
So I went on a nerd rant for a bit over 5 posts now and you are surprised to see my squeeze so much out of such a small amount of stuff. Now it’s time to really get into the power of most of the stuff I have been talking about plus some extra stuff I don’t know where else to put. Let’s visit this question, will we know everything about the Bible?
The obvious answer is no, especially after a lot of the stuff I talked about before. But there is something important to consider. Often people go to church, sit through Bible study, and doubt what they hear. It could be for a good reason. They have honest questions they can’t get answered. It’s no surprise that the pastor or others in their congregation may have never seen these questions before (or never were trained to deal with them). So they get the typical answers: “That is not fair to ask God,” “We aren’t meant to know this,” “No one will know until we get to heaven” and so on. To some degree, yes we won’t know everything, but that doesn’t mean answers don’t exist. If you don’t know the answer, that doesn’t mean the answer doesn’t exist. Often these “answers” do more harm than good. But this attitude is not Biblical:
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,1 Peter 3:15 ESV
Not every question someone has is rooted in a pursuit of the truth. More often than not, people tend to have questions because they feel that they have been wronged in some way. Someone in their family died and they question, “God why did you do this to me”? They had a painful childhood and they want to know why God didn’t stop it. Sometimes they just want to live how they want to and have as much fun as they want. From there people bring up objections to the Bible as a way of escaping it. They have this view not because they believe it, but because they don’t want to believe the alternative. But you can’t discriminate between different situations. It could be that the best apologetic answer is a personal one. Unless you know someone on a personal level, you can’t always give a direct answer to their situation. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the hard questions of life. You should still try to be ready for when the time comes, you can do what you need to.
Having skeptical answers is extremely important, even as a believer. For some reason, we tend to apply logic to our everyday lives and not the Bible. If you have a problem in your life, do you just give up? Some people do but more than often we don’t. The reason why we have phones and airplanes is that people wanted to improve what they could do. They saw a problem and worked until they came to a solution. In science, people constantly ask questions and push what we know and what about the things we can’t see to push our understanding. Yet, when it comes to the Bible we say, “it’s not fair to ask God that question.” Although we won’t know everything, it still helps to question things and push our boundaries of knowledge. Like, why is Satan not in hell?
Why isn’t Satan in Hell?
There isn’t any clear chapter or verse on this indicating the exact answer. This might fall into that Godel problem I talked about before. This could be something that is true, that we can’t prove using the logical system that we have. We need to take a step back and look at everything and then make claims. We do know this for sure:
- God will Judge sin (2 Corinthians 5:10)
- Satan fell (Isaiah 14:12-15)
- Hell was created for satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41)
- Man sinned (a lot of verses in the bible)
So now here is a logical question to ask, why is Satan not in Hell? It is clear that Satan is around in many places for instance as in the first chapter of Job. Satan also tempted Jesus In Matthew 4. You can even look ahead in the Bible and find that Satan is not thrown into hell until the end.
10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.Revelation 20:10-11 ESV
Then from here, the natural question arises, why isn’t Satan in hell? At the least after Christ resurrected, why not then? We can find several important clues which can help point to a possible answer to this.
9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.Revelation 12:9-10 ESV
There are two key threads that are highlighted here that can be traced back and followed through the bible about Satan. The first is that Satan is the deceiver and the second is that he is accusing us. When looking at the Garden of Eden, why deceive Eve? When you think back to Isaiah 14:13-14, Satan wanted to be God. How can a finite being take over and the position of an infinite God, one who is all-powerful and not part of creation? You can’t, but you could do something else.
Remember that God is a just God and before I talked about this issue of love and that without the ability to choose, love can’t exist. In Genesis 1:26, God gives dominion over the earth to man. This is important because that means man is in charge. Part of that is that God gives man an area to exercise his ability to love (along with stewardship and other things). But that comes at a cost if man is in charge, then man decides what happens. When looking at the temptation of Jesus in Matthew and Luke 4, Satan owns all the earth. You can also look at other verses that indicate this. At some point, man had to give Satan this authority. There is also another important issue. When the fall happens, can God judge Satan and not man? This would be unfair. If Satan committed a sin and all sin is equal and all sin will get punished (James 2:10, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23). It would not be just for God to judge Satan and turn a blind eye at man. But God will judge Satan once he also judges man. When you continue reading in Revelations 20, after Satan is thrown into the lake of fire, man is judged at the great white throne. Looking back at the fall, if Satan can get man to sin, he has some leverage. Satan can do what he wants because he has a buffer. He accuses man and gets man into sin so that he can’t be judged unless man is judged. This is an important reason why Satan traps people in sin (2 Timothy 2:26, Psalm 141:9, 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 1 Peter 5:8, ). So Satan is not in hell because God can’t judge Satan until he judges man (or at least deals with them together).
Taking the Bible out of context?
While we are on this topic, what does it mean to take things out of context? People have a problem with this in both extremes. They either completely misunderstand the text, or they don’t allow anyone to give a real interpretation of what the text says. Both extremes can be harmful. From here, there are a couple of common ways one can take the text out of context.
- Project meaning
- Picking verse
- Passage context
Projecting meaning tends to be the easiest to deal with. Often they don’t have any real bases for scripture and take a verse or a handful of verses and makeup or imply their own meaning on the text without any real logical connections. For instance, I was talking to someone who claimed that the new age movement idea of a third eye is biblical. That is a whole different conversation but when I asked for proof they went to Genesis 3:
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.Genesis 3:7 ESV
They went right there and only used that portion of scripture, let along they didn’t even read the rest. Let’s set aside whether or not that verse is referring to some type of ability that was unlocked. It doesn’t matter because it is clear just from reading the chapter that this is not something that A) was supposed to happen and B) was not something that God intended for man. If God intended it for man, why wouldn’t he have already let them have it? Why has it only been available after engaging with sin? Why is it that only Satan could help man get this ability? If Satan helped them open this, that is a pretty good indication that you need to be extremely cautious and understand the harm that it could bring. This is without really even reading the rest of the Bible. Just projecting that meaning onto the text already raises a lot of red flags and questions if you think about it. Of course, what does it mean their eyes were open is still a subject of debate. Different people have had interpretations ranging from they knew what they did to them not experiencing everything in the physical world instead of a purely spiritual one. Of course, this can go on, but it is clear that whatever happened, this was not God’s intention.
On another note, God did not create anything within the universe that was bad (although the concepts were created regardless). So why would God create something within man that could only be activated by sin? This could be a direct implication alone that this third eye idea can be ruled out altogether. It is clear when their eyes were opened it is not something good. So it is possible that it wasn’t something God made in that sense. We know that throughout Genesis 1, God looked at everything he made and called it Good and we know that God created everything (John 1). So if this was something God created, it was not good, therefore God probably didn’t create this. Hence, this leads to a contradiction and the third eye explanation can be discarded.
Picking s verse is often the most misunderstood concept. Because on the one hand, context matters, but on the other, academic schools do it all the time. This is not just in the field of theology but literacy, history, and anything that involves analyzing writing. On the one hand, it is pretty hard to pick out John 3:16 and mess up the interpretation. Few people would get angry and accuse you of cherry-picking this and making claims unless what you say in total is completely off to the point where you are probably directly going against the Bible. But referring a single line as a source of interpretation or even reading into it is a common practice. For instance, oftentimes people would look at the greek and pick out one word to talk about the implied tone of the passage. Or when looking at possible connections between things, often one verse or word is all you get to infer what the writers are talking about. You can find literature written about one word in Hebrew or Greek that we don’t know about. What is the wood that Noah used to build the ark in Genesis 6:14? Different translations have different approaches when dealing with this, but often some translators don’t speculate what the word is and just use the Hebrew word itself. The Hebrew word gopher H1613 גֹּפֶר only appears this one time in the text.
Now let’s look at another more relevant situation. Frequently people say you need to read the context of the passage. Which is true, but not all verse requires a full reading of the chapter or book to really interpret what is going on for instance:
2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.Proverbs 25:2 ESV
Does reading the rest of the chapter really change the meaning of this verse? Not really, even reading the verse before and after it, the context doesn’t demand that you need to completely reinterpret your understanding of the text.
1 These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied. 2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. 3 As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable.Proverbs 25:1-3 ESV
I tend to use a fancy phrase saying that some verses are “context invariant.” For instance, when looking at John 3:16, reading the context of the passage doesn’t change the interpretation of that verse. Instead it enhances what the plain reading of the text is directly saying. You can often read and find different verses where the writers slip something in that stands out alone and with some truth we can use independently that makes a claim. That claim fits into the context of the passage but it’s meaning doesn’t change if you take away the passage.
Cross Referencing the Bible
On the other hand, context does change some passages. Often people will pull out a verse from the middle of Paul’s letters and use that as a fact to build their whole theology on. But often Paul might just use that one verse in a greater argument he is building and when you follow the logic, it’s clear that something different is going on. For instance, this famous verse:
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28 ESV
Does that mean God will always fix every situation you are in and bless everything you do? Turns out this seems to present some problems if interpreted this way. One question to ask, should you pay your bills or should you pay your tithes? Of course, tithing leads to a whole other discussion for another day. But should you pay your tithes and just say “God will pay the bills?” Now in order to get into this, let’s read the rest of the verse and then cross-reference the Bible to get any meaningful insight, because often when talking about context, reading the rest of the passage helps but that might not always clear up everything.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28 ESV
There are two key points here that need to be addressed; “Who are those who love God” and “according to his purpose.” It is clear that those who love him have in view believers. That is straightforward. But there is a catch, and that can be found in other verses of the Bible.
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.John 14:13-15 ESV
This is important because, If you love God, you need to obey him and keep his commandments. What about Jesus’ teaching when he says “render to Caesar?” (Matthew 22:15-22). The bigger issue is where is your heart? What are your intentions behind doing things? According to his purpose, what is the will of God? If you do something outside of what his will is (or what he already commanded which is part of his will) how can he bless it later? What if God gave you money and you mismanaged it? You can find passages about stewardship and be able to manage what God has already given you. If God has given you something, can you go blow it and then turn around and say God bless this?
Yes God could fix your problems and yes God will protect you. But we also like to leave out the parts of the Bible where God is a father and will discipline his children (Hebrews 12:3-11). You can find mountains of writing talking about suffering and hardship, but to some degree, we might cause some of the problems we go through. Sometimes we need to shape our priorities and realign them with what God actually intended.
Now just to put some things into perspective, there is an issue with the tithing that comes up. One important thing to remember is are you being obedient to God? On the one hand, you can argue that tithing was part of the old testament law and Christ fulfilled the law and we are not under the law. But then, how does the church pay for a building? What happens if a family is under the poverty line and struggling to feed everyone, should they pay tithes? If they pay tithes and the church is going to help them and take care of them, aren’t they just getting their money back that they put into it? Overall the issue is, are you obeying what God wants for your life. Are you obeying the principles of God? Are you ignoring the legal law that we have to live under? There is a lot to consider when talking about this, but one can quickly see how just reading that one verse in Romans without putting clear parameters and context to what the verse is talking about can flow into many problems.