Has Lot’s Wife Been Found?

[H]asn’t there been actual physical evidence to prove the story of Lot’s wife being turned to salt?

This is, unfortunately, one of those stories that gets repeated a lot (pun intended) without people doing much fact-checking. Sodom and Gomorrah, which God destroyed for their wickedness (see Gen. 19), were near the Dead Sea. As it happens, there is a rock formation that looks like a woman looking behind her, and that formation has been called “Lot’s Wife.”

There are reasons, however, to reject the claim that this is actually the woman whom God turned into salt for disobeying Him. The most obvious is that the rock is simply much larger than any human being. The second is that there is no reason to believe that a rock formation in the shape of a human would have survived thousands of years, and even if it did, it is less likely that it would still look like a person all these years later.

Apparently, such rock formations, from small to large, are not uncommon in that area. It’s certainly possible that one of them could be Lot’s wife, but it would be impossible to identify which one it would be.

While we’re on the subject of Lot’s wife, though, I would like to point out one more common misunderstanding. Gen. 19:26 says, “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Most people argue that she “looked back” because she longed for her life back in Sodom, and that is the real reason for her judgment. Such an idea is certainly consistent with the rest of Scripture. James 4:4 says that to be friends with the world is to be enemies with God. But I think a closer examination of the passage teaches a much deeper lesson.

Lot took his wife and two unmarried daughters with him (Gen. 19:15), and most people just assume that these were the only children Lot had. Yet the same story also says that Lot tried to warn his sons-in-law, but they thought he was joking (Gen. 19:14). That means that Lot had other daughters who were married, which means it is still further possible that he had grandchildren. So why did Lot’s wife turn back? It is certainly possible that she may have longed for her life in Sodom, but try to put yourself in her shoes just a moment. It was not just her home and social life that was being destroyed. She had children and possibly grandchildren still in the city. Her emotional devastation at losing them clouded her judgment.

There is a direct correlation in the New Testament to this. Jesus said in Luke 14:25-27,

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

God demands absolute love for Him. Few Christians appreciate just how radical this really is. It is easy to say that we should love God more than our families when our families are, with us, striving to please God. But what happens when following Him puts us at odds with them? Christians throughout the centuries have learned the hard way that sometimes they have to choose between Him and their loved ones. Lot’s wife experienced just such a choice. Would she obey God, or would she disobey Him for the sake of her family? Her sin was not that she loved her children so dearly. It was that she chose them over the will of God.

There is a lot that we can learn from her story. Whether or not we ever find her physical remains, her judgment stands in our mind as a firm reminder of the dedication God requires from His children.

Is The Gap Theory Biblical?

Chris What is your stand on The “Gap Theory” of Genesis 1? Does it really matter? Does this “theory” explain the war in heaven with Lucifer as some suggest? – Michael L.

This is a fantastic question, and one that I appreciate on a personal level because several years ago I seriously entertained the possibility. For those who aren’t familiar with the theory, the argument is that there is a gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. It was popular with such well respected expositors as J. Vernon McGee. Supposedly, the millions—even billions—of years that scientist say the earth and universe has been around can be put between those two verses.

The chief evidence for the theory is Isa. 45:18, which says God “did not create [the earth] to be empty.” The word for “empty” here is tohu, which is the same word used in Gen. 1:2, “the earth was formless (tohu) and void.” Advocates say that if the earth was not created tohu, but by Gen. 1:2 it had become tohu, then something must have happened to the original creation in Gen. 1:1. This is further backed by the fact that the verb “was” in “and the earth was formless and void” in Gen. 1:2 can be translated “had become,” which means Gen. 1:2 could actually be rendered “and the earth had become formless and void.”

On the surface, this appears to be very compelling. However, the use of tohu in Isa. 45:18 isn’t as strong evidence as it first appears. The important part of the verse says, “he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited.” In Hebrew poetry, which this passage is an example of, two clauses set side by side are used to enhance meaning. Thus, when Isaiah says God did not create the world tohu, it means that God did not create it to be tohu as the next clause demonstrates. Instead, it was created to be inhabited. It was created for us (as evidenced by the fact that the context is the final salvation of Israel).

This brings us to the second part of your question, which is whether or not it explains the war in heaven. Again, many advocates of the Gap Theory argue that there was originally a pre-Adamic race ruled by Lucifer. Lucifer, however, caused a war in heaven at which time he was cast to earth. As punishment, God destroyed his kingdom, enshrouding it in darkness for hundreds of millions of years. Thus, the creation story of Gen. 1 is actually a story of recreation, not of the original creation. It is also why the first words God speaks are “Let there be light.”

Beyond the fact that there is little biblical evidence for this position (the Bible does talk about a war in heaven and Satan being cast out, but it does not connect it with the early earth or a pre-Adamic race; in fact, a pre-Adamic race is nowhere mentioned in Scripture), Isa. 45:18, the very verse appealed to support the Gap Theory, actually works against it. If God did not create the world to be empty but instead created it to be inhabited by humanity, then it makes no sense to say that it was created for Lucifer and his kingdom.

A final point has to do with general motivation for advocating a gap theory. Historically, no one ever found such a gap between the two verses until science came up with millions of years that supposedly needed to be explained. Whether or not science is right, the point is that we shouldn’t look for ways in Scripture to explain it away. Biblical passages must be taken in their own contexts. One of the surest ways to come up with a bad reading of a passage is to be looking for a meaning in it. As well intentioned as gap proponents are, I’m afraid they’ve done just that. Their good intentions have turned out to be the very thing that has caused their mistake.

Why Do Children Suffer?

I recently had someone ask me why God would let bad things happen to children. For example, this person was raised with people who exposed him to drug abuse, violence, etc. We were recently talking, and though this person has recently been saved, he still has trouble figuring out why God would allow bad things to happen to him as a child. Some of the things he was exposed to still seem to effect him as an adult, and when I told him to pray about it and give it to God, he asked me why God would allow these things to happen to an innocent child. I’ve heard people discuss this over the years, resulting in various answers, so my question to you is, how would you answer? – Ashley

Let me start by making a distinction between two problems this question presents. The first problem is emotional. We feel bad anytime something bad happens, and that feeling is only intensified when bad things happen to children. Let me be very clear up front: this question cannot be answered if the person asking is trying to feel better about suffering. The reason is that evil hurts us emotionally. Knowing the “why” doesn’t make us feel better. Besides, why should it? You would probably object if I told you that I could make you feel good (or even neutral) about the suffering of anyone, children especially!

The second problem is theological; it wants to know the “why.” I think I can answer this one, so long, again, as we don’t think solving this issue is the same as solving the emotional one.

So why does God children to suffer?

The most common answer to this, which is fine, because it is correct, is that people have free will. It is logically impossible for God to give us the choice to do good without also giving us the choice to do evil. I have a beautiful little girl who is my heart and soul. I choose every day to love and take care of her. But suppose I was compelled to do so. That would mean that I when I did take care of her, I wasn’t really choosing to after all, wouldn’t it?

God certainly could have denied us the choice to hurt people, but if He did that, He would just have robots! Some people use their choice to hurt others, including children. Often, they don’t do so intentionally. They just focus on what they want without regard for how it effects their child. Either way, the point is the same. Children suffer because of our selfish choices. It turns out, then, that of all people, God is the last one we could possibly blame! It’s our own fault. Not His.

Some, however, will point out that things like cancer or natural disasters hurt children but usually don’t come from anyone’s choice. We must remember, though, that our world operates by normal laws. A dropped rock will fall because gravity works. Those laws explain on a mechanical level everything in the universe, including disease and natural disasters. To ask God to not let children suffer as a result of these laws would be to ask Him to suspend them, but if He were to do that, imagine the kind of world we would live in. It would be completely irrational. There would be no way to know the consequences of our actions, because God would always be intervening! That, however, would end up denying us free will, because choice only means anything if you can make sense of your possibilities.

In other words, in order for us to be the free, moral creatures God designed us to be, our world has to operate according to normal laws of cause and effect. Sometimes we just get in the way of those laws—maybe by our own choice and maybe not—and get hurt.

In both of these cases, the reason God allows suffering is that it is the byproduct of creating a world where choice is possible. Yet I would point out one last thing. God is not standing by in Heaven and watching our plight with disinterest. He actually did something about our suffering by taking it on Himself at the Cross. God is not someone who can’t relate to our pain. When we are hurt, we can run to Him, and He can wrap His omnipotent and all-loving arms around us. He can cry with us and say, “I know how you feel.” Better, He promises to make it all right one day.

Our response is not to become angry at God for letting children suffer. It is to do everything we can to prevent it as much as possible, and that starts with our own behavior in our own houses with our own children. The last thing we want, after all, is for them to grow up and have to ask why they had to suffer in their innocence. In the end, if it is our choices that cause the bulk of the suffering of the innocent in this world, then we must make the choice to do as much as possible to help them as well!

Should We Dress Up For Church?

Where did we get the idea that we have to dress up to “go to church” or, in other words, to gather for group worship? Now, I was taught as a child that we were to our best, and while I don’t condemn anyone who wants to go as casually as they would like, I can’t help but think in the back of my mind that I need to dress up somewhat to gather in the sanctuary with the body of believers. I mean . . . we dress up for lots of celebrations, so why wouldn’t that same idea be applied to worship? Please share your thoughts on this matter and let me re-emphasize – I in no way think poorly of anyone who wants to dress casually. Thanks for your comments. – Beverly

The idea that we should dress up for the church gathering is less than two hundred years old. The reason people didn’t dress up for the first eighteen centuries was simply that they couldn’t afford it! Before the industrial revolution, the vast majority of people were peasants who basically had two sets of clothes:  one for work and one for visiting town. Dressing up was something only the wealthy did. With the invention of mass production, however, clothing prices dropped and people began working for companies. A middle class was born that could buy the clothes that once were reserved only for the rich. It’s hardly surprising that they started showing up at church in their new dress (for a modern example, think about people who buy a brand new car and eagerly drive it to church Sunday morning to show off to their friends).

Some preachers such as John Wesley and Horace Bushnell* actually opposed fine dress in church because what they believed it represented, but the culture was too strong for dissenting voices. Soon, the “Sunday best” became proverbial, and as society became more sophisticated, so did the church service.

In looking for a theological justification, many argued in the last century that dressing up was a matter of respect for God. There is truth to this. Even in the earliest days, Christians wore their nicer set of clothes when possible. Still further, it is commonly pointed out that we dress up for weddings and funerals. Does the worship service deserve any less?

It seems to me this is completely a matter of conscience. Paul talked about Christian liberty in 1 Cor. 8 and 10. Each person should act according to their conscience. If someone thinks they should dress up in honor of God, then they should do so without looking down on those who don’t. Likewise, if someone thinks that they should come as they are to emphasize ideas like openness and honesty, then they should do so without looking down on those who don’t. All should simply agree that our dress should be appropriate, but such a standard applies whether we are gathered together for corporate worship or not.

The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with dressing up or dressing down for worship. All that matters is the dress of the heart. Those who dress to show off, whether their dress is up or down, are actually focused on other people rather than God.

By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I typically dress a little more up for the Sunday morning service than I do during the week. For me, it is a matter of respect. However, I don’t “go to church” in a full suit and tie, as I know many today dress in jeans and sneakers, and I would not want to make anyone feel out of place. If I am right and this is a matter of Christian liberty, then I am also obliged to be sure my liberty doesn’t cause another to stumble (Rom. 14:21). It seems to me that if we were to all simply adopt that one principle, then much of this issue would resolve itself.

* Frank Viola, in Pagan Christianity, argued that Bushnell was actually a proponent of dressing up for church. I have not been able to read Bushnell’s original essay, “Taste and Fashion,” but the excerpts I did find were highly critical of “fashionable people.” You can read them for yourselves here.

What Is Biblical Faith?

Hi Chris, Can you define the word believe. I was told it means more than just knowing Jesus existed, it is following Him. They said, even Satan believes. Does believing go deeper? Believing that Jesus died for your sins and you are cleansed by His blood. Is it what he did for you and I is where the true believing comes. What do you think??
Thanks, Karen

The Bible says faith is the condition for salvation. John 3:16 says that everyone who believes has everlasting life. Eph. 2:8 says that we are saved by grace through faith. Theologians, though, argue over what “faith” means. Opinions range from seeing it as merely intellectual assent to full-orbed commitment. Some pack other theological concepts into the word, such as repentance, because they believe that repentance is necessary for salvation while many passages that explain how to receive eternal life make no mention of it. Some distinguish between true faith and false faith and point to passages like James 2:14-26 to prove their case (but see our discussion of that passage here).

To deal with these questions, we should first note the nature of the English word “faith” can be confusing. Many dictionaries define it as “belief without evidence.” The Bible does not promote this concept of faith. On the contrary, Peter tells the church to be able to explain why they believe in Jesus (1 Pet. 3:15). Second, our word faith does not have a verbal counterpart. That is, we don’t “faith” something. We typically use the word “believe” to express that concept. Neither Greek nor Hebrew, however, has this issue, since in both languages the noun also has a verb form.

An interesting and informative use of the word "aman." It is used in II Ki. 18:16 to describe the pillars in the Temple.

With that in mind, the primary Hebrew word for believe/faith is aman and is the word from which we get “amen.” It is the word used in Gen. 15:6, “Abraham believed (aman) the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” The most important thing to know about this word is that its basic idea is to express certainty or sureness. To say aman was to declare something reliable or trustworthy and to thus have confidence in it. This is a far cry from most people’s concept of “faith” as a mere hope. When Abraham believed God, he was literally saying, “You can and will do what You have promised,” which in the immediate context was to give Abraham a son. It was this by declaration of Yahweh’s faithfulness that Abraham was justified.

The Greek word that translates aman and is used by John nearly one hundred times is pisteuo. Again, it fundamentally means to declare something reliable, trustworthy, or steadfast. By extension, it means to reply upon or trust something or someone. As such, pisteuo can bear the idea of “entrusting.” Because a person or thing is reliable, I can entrust something of value to them. John plays on this idea in John 2:23-25, “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed [pisteuo] in his name. But Jesus would not entrust [pisteuo] himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (NIV). Here, John says that the people in Capernaum believed in Jesus. That is, in response to the miracles, they believed He was able to do the things He said about Himself. In Hebrew terms, they declared Him aman. Yet Jesus, knowing that man is fickle, did not find in them the same trustworthiness. They placed their faith in Him; He did not place His faith in them.

Some have used passages like this to prove that these people had “false faith.” There is, however, no evidence to support such a view. John nowhere distinguishes between true and false faith. He simply says they believed. Are we not to take him at his word? Further examples of this kind of fruitless faith are found in John 12:42 and Luke 8:14, etc. In fact, the Bible nowhere qualifies the word “faith” as either true or false. One either believes or they do not. This is evident from what we have seen in the basic meaning of the word. Just because you trust someone or something does not mean you will necessarily act on it or that you will grow in that trust. Preachers often like to use the picture of a man sitting on a chair to demonstrate “real faith.” Supposedly, it would be meaningless to say you trusted the chair but refuse to sit in it, but such a statement only proves our point. I can be 100% convinced that a chair will hold me up. That does not mean I have to sit in it to prove my trust.

The Bible distinguishes between believing and acting in obedience. According to James 2:14-26, we may believe, but unless our faith presses us on to good works, it is useless.  This passage is not teaching that real faith necessarily produces good works. On the contrary, if his readers did not have real faith, James would have said so, but he says that faith without works is useless, not fake. We should go on to act in the faith that we have and not be content with merely believing the right things.

In short, “to believe,” in both Greek and Hebrew, simply means to place your trust in something or to rely upon it. There is no distinction between real and false faith. It does not include concepts such as repentance and baptism. When the Bible wishes to speak of repentance, it says so (Mark 1:15). When it wishes to speak of baptism, it says so (Acts 8:12).

The Bible is clear that salvation is by faith alone. Fundamentally, to believe is to trust. To believe the Gospel is to trust that God is telling the truth (cf. Gen. 15:6 and 1 John 5:10). Don’t let anyone add conditions to the Gospel by loading up all their extra conditions into the word “believe.” Unfortunately, such attempts are just as much false gospels as any that says that we have to do good works before we can be saved. We either trust Jesus alone or we do not.

What are your thoughts on biblical faith? Leave a comment and let us know how this effects your own view.

Also, be sure to subscribe at the top-right hand corner of the screen so you can stay updated on all the latest posts!

Are Women To Be Silent in the Church?

Chris, I claim nothing but GOD illuminating SCRIPTURE to me. I usually use the King James Version and what use to sound like Greek to me, now seems to be so clear and obvious. I often hear people, men and women pull a verse out of context to make their opinion and then I suggest we go way back before their ‘proof’ verse and see who, what, when, where, what was going on, what was the topic being discussed, why, etc., etc. So many times men throw it up in my face that I am not a ‘preacher’ and should keep silent and not try to teach men, ‘that’s in a BIBLE’!!! Will you discuss what a woman is allowed to do when so many teach a false non-gospel, as Paul calls it. – Teressia

There are few issues more hotly debated today than the role of women in the church. I’m not going to try to settle the question in one simple post. For several reasons, I cannot give a list of what women are allowed to do, but I can try to put to rest some wrong ideas about what women are not to do. By nature, this discussion will be a bit longer than most, but I hope you will find it worthwhile.

Those who argue that women should be silent in church and not teach usually appeal to two passages: 1 Tim. 2:9-15 and 1 Cor. 14:33-35. We will deal briefly with each and then close with a few general observations about Paul’s overall worldview as compared with ours.

The important part of our first passage is 2:11-12: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” A few notes about translation are in order. First, the words “quietness” and “silent” are exactly the same word in Greek (hesuchia), but neither English rendition properly captures the idea. This is evident by the way it is used in 2 Thess. 3:12, which says, “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down [hesuchia] and earn the bread they eat.” Here, Paul was talking about men refusing to work and is basically telling them to lead quiet lives of work and respect, to earn their wages and pay for their own way. The idea, then, is to be respectful and not contentious.

Second, the word “learn” (Greek: manthano) is directly related to the word “disciple” (mathetes). The idea here does not seem to be the learning of abstract biblical facts, as if one were preparing for a game of Bible trivia. Rather, it is referring to the discipleship process. This in and of itself is an extremely important point, as Paul’s idea of discipleship was hardly encompassed by a thirty minute sermon on Sunday morning and an hour long Bible study during the week! Discipleship was a matter of deep commitment and submission in which one learned to live out their faith. We will talk more about that in another post.

These two facts alone drastically change our understanding of this passage. Paul is not talking about women keeping their mouth shut during a worship service. He is taking about women submitting to the discipleship process. When disputes arose, as they commonly do, women were to step aside in submission. This is confirmed when Paul goes on to say that women are not to teach men or have authority over them. Notice my rendering. It is likely that the words “to teach” and the word “to have authority over” share the same direct object: men. Women certainly are allowed to teach (we can list biblical examples all day long of this). In the immediate context, though, this “teaching” refers to the discipleship process. Even then, it is not the mere discipleship process Paul has in mind, but that part of the process that requires the one party to submit to the other. The issue here is actually, then, one of headship.

Turning to 1 Corinthians, the important part is verse thirty-four, which flatly says, “Women should remain silent in the churches.” Here, the word for “silent” (sigao) has the idea of keeping one’s opinion or ideas to themselves.

First, whatever this means, it cannot be taken as an absolute prohibition against women speaking in a worship service, because 1 Cor. 11:5 expressly refers to women praying and even prophesying in the church.  Second, as always, context is important. This verse is found in the closing section of chapters twelve through fourteen, which deal with how spiritual gifts are to be exercised. The Corinthian church was deeply charismatic, and their worship services were very disorderly. They spoke over one another, argued, considered some people and some gifts more important than others, etc. In fact, Paul never once mentions any church leadership (elders, overseers, or pastors) anywhere in either of his epistles to the Corinthian church, which could well imply a lack of church leadership, which may in turn have contributed t the disorder.

To solve this problem, Paul demanded that if anyone prayed in a tongue, they should do so one at a time and then interpret, and if there was no interpreter, they were to keep silent. Likewise, prophecies should be given one at a time and then discussed by the church. It is in this context that women are told to keep silent. The issue, given the nature of the situation, seems plain enough. When contentions arose as to the meaning or reliability of prophecies, tongues, or interpretations, the women were to remain silent and let them men work out the problem. Again, for Paul, headship is the issue. If women had a problem, they were to talk to their husbands privately about the matter, and then he, as a representative of the family, could take his concerns to the public meeting.

Further, this prohibition does not even need to be absolute! If we are right and the issue is contentious speech, then there seems to be nothing that says that a woman could not ask a question or offer an opinion in ordered, open services. It seems that only when things got out of hand that women were to remove themselves from the discussion.

In closing, neither of these passages prohibits women from sharing the Gospel with men or with women. It does not forbid women from offering their own insights or thoughts on the Word of God or from sharing testimony as to what God has done in their lives. What they do prohibit is women exercising final spiritual authority over men.

It is difficult to know exactly how this applies in today’s culture. Paul does not give an explicit list of do’s and don’ts. Some argue that tongues and prophecies are no longer present in the church, and if so, it seems this entire discussion is moot. Further, it is unlikely that the first century church meetings operated in the same way ours does today (i.e., thirty minutes of music followed by announcements and a thirty minute sermon). Still further, when Paul wrote these words, the New Testament was not yet complete, and so doctrinal matters could not be resolved by pointing to what the apostles had already said. The words of elders had to be followed on these points. To further complicate the matter, Paul often taught the churches how to live in the social order they found themselves, rather than how to revolutionize it. For instance, he taught slaves to obey their masters. That does not mean that he condoned slavery! A final philosophical problem is found in the fact that Paul certainly had a generally different system of ethics than we do. He would not have been focused on the question, “Is this wrong” as we are, but rather, “How would a mature, virtuous Christian live?” That system of ethics, called “virtue ethics” assumes that to be moral is to act in accordance with the proper order of nature. In that case, we have to strive to understand the place of men and women in relationship to each other, society, the church, etc.  None of these things are immediately clear.

We should not use these passages, then, to forbid any woman from sharing what God has given to her to share. We should simply recognize that God has ordained the husband as the spiritual head of the household, and as such, women are, in some sense, not to be in spiritual authority over men. We should be open to all people’s thoughts and views of Scripture, regardless of gender, because at the end of the day, ultimately, it is to Christ that we submit.

What are your thoughts on this issue or these passages? As always, if you haven’t subscribed yet, be sure to do so.

Can Military Personnel Go to Heaven?

Being that I spend a lot of time with military, I get “told” by them that they know they are going to hell. They assume because of their job that there is no way God’s grace would ever flow to them. While, of course, I have my own responses to them, starting with Joshua and David, I would like for you to discuss this topic for my further education and for those who are not sure how to answer when it comes to them. So, put the question how you want, but I’m sure it is something like . . . Can our military personnel be saved? ~ Beverly

As your pointing to Joshua and David proves, yes, our military personnel, along with any other living human being, can be saved.

There are two serious problems here. The first is easy enough to solve. It is that people think that some sins are so bad that they cannot be forgiven, and therefore, God will send them to Hell. In the first place, even if that were true, the only sin the Bible calls unforgivable is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (see Matt. 12:31-32). Killing people, especially in war, doesn’t make the list of unpardonable sins! On the contrary, there have been many murderers who were forgiven and are today in Heaven. David is one such example (see 2 Sam 11). It is also worth noting that even if murder were on “the list” our soldiers still don’t have to worry, because the Bible distinguishes between killing and murdering. The sixth commandment is “You will not murder” (Ex. 20:13). Most people, however, will quote it as “Thou shalt not kill,” as per the KJV. Modern translations have it correct by translating the word ratsach as “murder.” The word for killing generally is shachat, which is not necessarily a sin. Simply put, our soldiers may be killers, but they aren’t murderers.

In other words, their job doesn’t require them to commit any sins, forgivable or not. Second, even if their killing was murder, there is no place in the Bible that says murder is not forgivable. In fact, we have clear instances of true murderers being forgiven!

The second issue is a bit deeper. Our soldiers, along with all Christians, need to understand that no one goes to Hell for sin, so even if murder were an unforgivable sin, that still would not mean they were going to Hell! Let me quote the passage in the NT where people are actually described as being thrown into Hell:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:11-15, NIV)

This is the Great White Throne Judgment to take place at the end of the world. Notice that books (plural) were opened at this judgment and a book (singular) was opened. The books record all the deeds we have ever done. The second is the Book of Life. What are people thrown into Hell for? Their deeds? No! They are thrown into the Lake of Fire for not being found written in the Book of Life. An amazing fact about the Bible that most people are shocked t discover is that the Bible nowhere condemns people to Hell because of their sin, and thank God it doesn’t, because all of us, even Christians, have sin! We are condemned for not being in the Book of Life (cf. John 3:18). The only reason the books are opened is because God is fair. Most people actually think that they are good enough to get into heaven. God is going to give them a chance to make their defense. Their works, of course, will show that they really aren’t good in the first place. As such, God will then turn to see if they are in the Book of Life. If not, then they will be condemned.

So how are we placed in the Book of Life? By being born again and receiving eternal life and that is by simply trusting Jesus for our salvation. Can our military do that? Yes, and, for that matter, anyone can. Anyone can be absolutely, 100% sure they are going to Heaven. All they have to do is simply believe that Jesus told the truth. It comes down to that simple question. Do we think Jesus told the truth, or is He a liar? Is it true that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but has everlasting life, or was Jesus wrong?

Should we pray to Jesus or to the Father?

For many years I’ve heard Christians “pray” to Jesus. I believe that because Jesus Prayed to a Being Higher than Himself (God), We are to pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ. Am I wrong in thinking this way, or are we to pray to Jesus? – Mike T.

Should we pray to the Father or to Jesus? To some, the question may seem silly. “Well, Jesus is God, so it doesn’t really matter who you pray to!” they may argue. Of course, on one level, such an answer is absolutely correct. The Son is just as much God as is the Father, and God isn’t going to ignore the prayers of His children because we addressed the wrong Person of the Godhead. But on the other hand, the question is deeply important, because it says a great deal about our understanding of our relationship to God and what exactly Jesus did for us.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), He gave them a model prayer that begins, “Our Father,” not “Dear God.” He did not say, “Well, you pray to Me, of course . . .” Certainly, from a Trinitarian perspective, Jesus is identifying the Person to whom the disciples should pray. But more than that, the word “Father” brings out the relationship between God and believers. It is used only fifteen times in the Old Testament with reference to God, yet the New Testament uses it nearly 250 times! The Jews were not accustomed to thinking of God as “Father” except in the distant sense of a protector and the one who brought them into existence (cf. John 8:41). Even then, though, there is a difference in referring to God as your Father and addressing Him as such.

What makes this truth even more amazing is that through Jesus such intimacy can be had at all with God. Again, while there is nothing wrong with praying to Jesus, it is important to recognize that His life and death allowed us access to the Father’s throne. This truth would be grand enough to simply pray to God as God, but to address the Father as Father, all thanks to Jesus, is humbling to consider!

Finally, I have always wondered when I hear people praying to Jesus what their view of the Trinity actually is. It is very easy to slip into the thinking that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all really the same Person, and that God simply manifests Himself in these different ways as the situation demands. This view is technically called Modalism and was condemned centuries ago as a heresy. It has made something of a resurgence in recent years thanks to Oneness Pentecostalism. In most cases, the people who pray to Jesus probably simply have not stopped to consider these issues, but it is possible that such languages actually shows a misunderstanding about the very nature of the Godhead.

The bottom line is that while it is certainly not wrong in any way to pray to Jesus, we should direct our prayers primarily to the Father, for that is why Jesus came in the first place. We have a relationship with Him thanks entirely to the Son, and we live in that relationship through the power of the Holy Spirit.