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Pastor Bob answers questions on a variety of topics.


I recently had a conversation with a Christian friend who believes that abortion isn't a sin because it's legal in the United States. She also informed me that the Bible backs this up in Genesis 2:7, where Adam became a living being only after God had given him "the breath of life." What do you believe?

Let me begin by saying that all life is a gift from God. Though we may face hardship and live on a planet where war, disease, and poverty are a reality, the ability to feel, love, communicate, and experience all that life has to offer should never be underestimated. The Bible, in very definitive terms, declares that God is the Author of life. (See Romans 9:19-21, for instance.) He is the One Who determines the length of our days, where and when we're born, and the purpose for our lives.

Listen to the Lord as He speaks to Jeremiah the prophet, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations" (Jer. 1:5). This verse is not stating that Jeremiah existed in some spiritual form before birth, but rather that his life was conceived in the mind of God.

As for your friend's use of Genesis 2:7, let us remember two things: first, that Adam, and subsequently Eve, as the beginning of the human race, were created from the dust of the earth. This is in sharp contrast to the multiple billions of us who have arrived on the planet since. When God commanded the first couple to "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28), it was evident that the creative process of God would now be intertwined with the gestation of a living being-—within the womb of a woman.

Listen to the psalmist, "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb'' (Ps. 139:13). Like Jeremiah, the psalmist understood that within the womb existed a person created and cared for by God. It was not "potential life," as some would argue today, but a real, live human being.

Concerning what takes place within the womb, let's consider the following medical facts:
• A heartbeat begins 18 to 25 days after conception.
• At eight weeks, a preborn baby will pull back an arm or leg if pricked by a pin.
• Thumb-sucking begins at 9 to 10 weeks.
• Fingerprints are detectable at 10 to 12 weeks.
• At three months, all organs are functioning.

Secondly, any time we begin to look to the word of God, we cannot isolate Scriptures that support our theories. We must compare Scripture with Scripture through the whole counsel of the revealed will of God. There's not one Scripture after Genesis 2 that would corroborate your friend's interpretation.

As far as the argument for abortion being legal in the United States, the Scriptures are abundant and clear that we are to obey the laws of the land unless they conflict with the word of God. (See Titus 3:1-2, Acts 4:18-20, Romans 13:1-7.) I think that everyone would agree that just because prostitution, slavery, or drug use may be legal in certain places of the world, it doesn't mean that Christians should be partakers in these activities.

The crime against the unborn has taken on epidemic proportions in our day – according to the CDC, there have been over 50 million abortions in the United States since legalization, and 1.2 trillion worldwide – possibly costing us a generation of athletes, ministers, artists, and poets. I believe one day God will judge nations for this severe disobedience.

For more information, see Pastor Bob's essay entitled "A Philosophy of Life," including the embedded editorial by Sen. Rick Santorum.


Ark of the Covenant

When was the ark of the covenant returned to the temple? Was it in the temple when the veil was torn in two when Jesus died?

The ark, even to this day, is of great interest to people around the world, and rightfully so. This chest contained the holiest items of Israel's history, including the two tablets of stone with God's commandments. It also served as the place for the direct manifestation of the presence of God. The most holy object in Old Testament religion, it was here that the atoning blood was sprinkled once a year by the high priest for the sins of the nation.

After the ark was completed according to God's specifications, it was placed in the tabernacle. As the people of Israel traveled through the wilderness subsequently entered the land of Canaan, the ark always went before them. Later, King David brought the ark to Jerusalem when he made the city the capital of a united Israel (2 Sam. 6). The ark resided in the inner sanctum of the temple, the Most Holy Place, until 587 B.C., when King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian armies sacked the city and destroyed the temple.

In response to your question, there is no biblical record that indicates that the ark survived the Babylonian attack. After a thousand years of being a major part of the nation, the ark was lost. Thus, when Jesus cried on the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30), the veil was torn in two, but there was no ark of the covenant behind the curtain.

This underscores a great truth about the passion of our Lord. Through His obedience to the Father and work on the cross, He became both the offering and the Offerer before God for our sins: "not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12. For a complete understanding of this, read Hebrews, chapters 7 through 10).

Movies such as Indiana Jones heightened the awareness of the whereabouts of the ark, as well as interest in finding it. Some speculate that it's preserved in Israel, Ethiopia, Egypt, and even in the basement of the Vatican.

I'll leave you to your own conjecture and imagination, but for those of us who are serious Bible students, let us recall this prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the future of God's ark:

"Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days," says the LORD, "that they will say no more, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore." (Jer. 3:16)


Age of the Earth

Pastor Bob, since becoming a Christian I have believed in the literal interpretation of the Genesis record concerning the creation of the earth. Lately, I have been reading information by leading Christians that state that there were not six literal days of creation but rather long periods of time whereby God used evolution as the mechanism of creation. What do you believe?

Let me begin by saying that Christians with a high view of Scripture and belief in its infallibility disagree on this issue; hence your question. A great place to start this debate is to bring clarity to some of the terms being tossed around today in these arguments.

Young-Earth Creationism: God created the world from nothing (Latin ex nihilo) in six literal 24-hour days and rested on the seventh. This event took place somewhere between six thousand and ten thousand years ago. God created a literal Adam and Eve as described in Genesis 2.

Old-Earth Creationism: God created the world from nothing (Latin ex nihilo) in six epochs or spans of time and rested in the seventh. The universe could be billions of years old. God may have created a literal Adam and Eve as described in Genesis 2.

Theistic evolution: The God of the Bible used the process of evolution to bring about the world that we see today. This process took billions of years, and man eventually arose through random chance and natural selection.

Intelligent Design: The world as we see it today is too extremely complex to have arisen through evolution's random chance. Therefore it must have been designed by some (unspecified) intelligent agent.

Why I Believe in the Young Earth

Though the young-earth view was widely accepted by most people through history, the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859 and the subsequent spread of evolutionary thought changed all of that: many adherents of the biblical record were forced to re-examine their beliefs in light of supposed scientific discovery.

While the Bible is not a science book, because it originated in the mind of God, it must be congruent with discoveries of how our world works. A quick look at Scripture shows that this is so. For example, while men were still teaching that the world was flat and the heavens contained only about 1000 stars, the Bible had for thousands of years spoken of the earth as a sphere (see Is. 40:22) and the stars being as innumerable as grains of sand on the seashore (see Jer 33:22; Gen. 22:17). The water cycle, what scientists today call hydrology, is accurately described not only in Ecclesiastes 1:7 and Isaiah 55:10, but also in book of Job, thought by scholars to be oldest book in the Bible (see Job 36:27-28).

What I'm trying to say is that Christians should never turn their backs on solid discoveries made within the scientific community. Rather we should embrace them, knowing that "the heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork" (Ps. 19:1).

The ultimate question becomes, are we interpreting Scripture in light of science, or according to true exegesis? I like how Norman Geisler expresses it:

There is no demonstrated contradiction of fact between Genesis 1 and science. There is only a conflict of interpretation. Either, most modern scientists are wrong in insisting the world is billions of years old, or else some Bible interpreters are wrong in insisting on only 144 hours of creation some several thousand years before Christ with no gaps allowing millions of years. But, in either case, it is not a question of the inspiration of Scripture, but of the interpretation of Scripture (and of the scientific data). (When Critics Ask, emphasis in original.)

The proper exegetical interpretation of Genesis 1 has led me to believe in a literal six days of creation. While I value the brilliance of scientists who now profess belief in Christ, their leaning on scientific authority has led to a reinterpretation of biblical teaching to accommodate the current trends in naturalistic theory.

While there are numerous defenses for a young earth - including the first and second laws of thermodynamics; the historical records; population growth; helium content in the world; missing neutrons from the sun; the decline of the Earth's magnetic field; the limited number of supernovas; and radioactive halos* - I will restrict my argument to biblical interpretation.

I will now list the five reasons why I believe the earth to be young.

Reason 1: The Meaning of the Word Yom

The Hebrew word for day is yom. In a preponderance of its over 2000 incidences in the Old Testament, it means a literal 24-hour day. In the few instances where it is speaking figuratively, such as in "the day of the Lord," it is understood within the context to signify a longer period of time.

Additionally, two characteristics of the Genesis 1 days are unique to 24-hour days in the Bible: they are numbered ("a first day," etc.) and they have an "evening" and a "morning." The exegetical law of first reference states that the meaning of a word or doctrine the first time it appears in Scripture becomes its primary meaning.

Later in the book of Exodus we see Moses delivering the law to Israel at Mount Sinai. In the fourth commandment God told Moses to keep holy the Sabbath, "for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth...and rested on the seventh day" (Ex 20:11). As a result, the Israelites were to set apart one day out of the week for rest after their six days of work. There is an undeniable correlation God makes to His work of creation and the work man was now called to do.

Finally, folks love to quote, "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8). The purpose and context of this verse is that God resides outside of time. God is Spirit, therefore He is eternal and not bound by the material world. In no way is this verse stating that in the Bible every day equals one thousand years. This kind of exegesis is called proof texting, and is misleading at best.

Reason 2: Problems with Evolutionary Theory

I don't believe in evolution, at least on a macro level. Obviously, there have been proven cases of microevolution within a species over time, usually an adaptation to a changing environment. When these cases are further examined, however, it can be seen that no new genetic information is being introduced, leading to greater and greater complexity. Instead, whatever genetic information was already there has been rearranged, or perhaps lost. (A great analogy for this is a slot machine: each time the lever is pulled, the same information within the machine is reshuffled to bring a different result.)

However, the idea of a common ancestor for all life, be it plant or animal, and the multitudes of intermediate species necessary to bring us to the biota we see today, cannot be supported by an already extensive fossil record, much less by the biblical record. Genesis says, and we see today, every plant and animal reproducing "according to its kind" (see Gen. 1:11-12, 24-25).

True Darwinian evolutionary theory requires two main ingredients to work: time -- hence, the older the earth, the better -- and chance. Anything can happen over time, according to an evolutionist. For example, Richard Dawkins, in his national bestseller The Blind Watchmaker, contends that a marble statue, given enough time, could wave its hand at you. Mr. Dawkins, a professor at Oxford University in England, explains:

Molecules of solid marble are continuously jostling against one another in random directions. The jostlings of the different molecules cancel one another out, so the whole hand of the statue stays still. But if, by sheer coincidence, all the molecules just happened to move in the same direction at the same moment, the hand would move. If they then all reversed direction at the same moment the hand would move back. (See chapter entitled "Origins and Miracles.")

Dawkins is an avowed atheist and believes that natural selection, a blind and cruel process, is the agent of evolution. Almost all scientists would agree with this. In fact, high school biology textbooks state as much.

Even prominent evangelicals have bought into this premise. Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, states that to believe in an old earth "you've got to believe in evolution of some sort; you've got to believe that God did use natural selection in some way" (http://www.ericmetaxas.com/blog/interviewing-tim-keller/).

The conundrum, however, is that many leading scientists (for example, Michael Behe and Phillip Johnson), believe that natural selection could have never brought about the complexity we see in the world today. While these men are silent on the date of creation, their findings have led to the rise of the Intelligent Design movement.

Reason 3: Man

Man was the pinnacle of God's creation. Unlike any other created form, Adam was made "in the image of God."

Until the creation of man in Genesis 1:26, the formula God used was a command ("Then God said, "'Let there be...'") and its result ("...and it was so."). With the creation of Adam, things become more personal: "Let Us make man in Our image..." Man was not only the pinnacle of God's creation, but he was the only part of God's creation to enjoy a personal relationship with God.

While some old earthers hold to a literal Adam and Eve, even this involves interpretive difficulties. To believe that most of Genesis 1 is allegorical or symbolic, but that Adam and Eve are historical, breaks almost every rule of literary and biblical interpretation.

The fall of a literal Adam also sets up the Bible's teaching on salvation: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22). (See also Roman 5:18-19, 1 Timothy 2:13-14.) The doctrine of original sin, total depravity, justification, and salvation by grace all hinge on what transpired in a garden and upon a cross.

Reason 4: Jesus, Paul, and Church History

The Old Testament is the Bible that Jesus, Paul, and the early Church read.

Jesus believed in a literal Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah's great flood (see Matt. 19:4, 23:35, 24:37-38; Mk. 10:6; Lk. 11:51, 17:26-27). Jesus had no doubt that God created mankind, that Adam's sin bore fruit in Cain's murder of his righteous, and that the world was destroyed in a flood.

The apostle Paul, as I stated in Reason 3, believed in a literal Adam. In the brilliant book of Romans, Paul argues that Adam passed his sin to all mankind, and speaks of Adam, Moses, and Jesus in one breath. He then concludes, "For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many" (Rom. 5:15).

Peter, in his Pentecost message, and Zechariah, his tongue finally loosed after the birth of his son John, both reference God speaking by His holy prophets "since the world began" (Acts 3:21 and Luke 1:70). In no way did these men believe that there were billions of years before man appeared on the earth.

This thinking continued through church history, and in the mid-1600s Archbishop James Ussher used the genealogies in Scripture to calculate the date of creation as 4004 B.C. Currently, Bible-believers have said that this 6000-year age could be revised up to about 10,000 years based on the fact that, in the Bible, genealogies are often "telescoped."

Reason 5: The Fall, the Flood, and Uniformitarianism

Finally, the Bible itself gives an apologetic of the argument that would be used concerning the creation:

"Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.'" (2 Pet. 3:3-4). This belief is called uniformitarianism, the view that things always have been and always will be as they are right now.

Peter goes on to write "For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (2 Peter 3:5-7).

The alternate belief to uniformitarianism is to believe that prior cataclysmic events shaped the world we now see. The Bible records two of these events: the Fall and the Flood.

One of the grand results of the Flood is the immense fossil record. For fossilization to occur, a creature must be buried almost immediately after death under a great weight of sediment. This is almost impossible to explain from a uniformitarianistic point of view. (Google the Karoo Formation fossil field in Africa, for instance.)


Hebrews 11:3 states, "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God ..."

Why do we need faith to understand the creation of the world? Mainly because we are finite creatures trying to understand an omniscient God. Job, confused by his trial and mocked by his counselors, begins to question God's benevolence and justice, chapter upon chapter. Finally, God responds, "Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge... I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" Though God has allowed mighty minds to make fantastic discoveries, a full reading of Job 38 reminds us of how finite we really are. (Incidentally Job 38-41 are some of the most glorious verses concerning God and his creation in all the Bible.)

To sum it up, I agree with Jonathan D. Sarfati, research scientist in physical chemistry (Aston, In Six Days): "I believe in a recent creation in six consecutive normal days because the only eyewitness tells us this is what He did, and He has shown that He should be trusted."

For further reading on this subject, Pastor Bob recommends the following books:

*Aston, John F., ed. In Six Days: Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2000.

Behe, Michael J. Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: Free Press, 1996.

Hunt, Dave. Cosmos, Creator, and Human Destiny: Answering Darwin, Dawkins, and the New Atheists. Bend, OR: The Berean Call, 2010.

Johnson, Phillip E. Darwin on Trial. Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1991.

MacArthur, John. The Battle for the Beginning: Creation, Evolution and the Bible. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2001.

Morris, Henry M. The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976.

Morris, Henry M. The Remarkable Record of Job: The Ancient Wisdom, Scientific Accuracy, and Life-Changing Message of an Amazing Book. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Stoner, Don. A New Look at an Old Earth. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1973.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points toward God. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.



How did you know you were called to be a pastor?

This is a giant question. I have met many former pastors who confessed that they filled the office grudgingly or for selfish reasons. If it is not God who has called a man to lead in the church, the potential for damage among the sheep in that man's care is great.

The Apostle Paul declared to Timothy that "if a man desires the position of a [pastor], he desires a good work" (1 Tim. 3:1). (The word for pastor is, literally, overseer; it can also be translated bishop, elder, or ruler.) There's no doubt that the pastorate, though it may be one of life's greatest challenges, is also one of life's highest callings. It should be fulfilling and rewarding. But one should never take it lightly.

The challenge in knowing whether one merely has a self-motivated desire to be in full-time ministry or is actually being called to it by God lies in discerning the revealed will of God as given in the Scriptures, and the unique plan for which we each were born.

The Lord's will for any of us is no mystery if we look to the pages of Scripture. His desire is that we would be saved (2 Pet. 3:9), filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), holy (Eph. 1:4), and walking in love (1 Cor. 13). I believe that as we are obedient to His revealed will, a unique plan will become evident and confirmed in our hearts: "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Prov. 4:23, NIV).

The gifts and callings of the Lord are often evident early in a person's life. In my own life, it was shortly after my conversion that I sensed a desire to serve God's people in the local church. At that time my pastor gave me advice that I've tried to pass on to aspiring young leaders. He suggested that if the Lord would have me shepherd over many people, then He would reveal that to me as I began to shepherd over a few.

Taking that advice, I began to serve as youth pastor in my local church. I taught home Bible studies, and generally made myself available wherever help was needed. Even difficult and seemingly bad ministry experiences proved invaluable to my learning.

Over a period of time, the Lord began to confirm His calling for me in three ways: an inner joy in what I was doing, the supporting testimony of others, and growth in the ministries I led.

In conclusion, for anyone seeking to know the will of God for his or her life, there's no better advice than Paul gives to us in Romans 12:2: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."


Church Government

We've noticed that there seems to be a more laid-back atmosphere at Calvary Chapel of Delaware County than in most churches and were wondering what style of church government you operate under. Do you believe in elders, deacons, and board members? Or is the pastor in sole authority?

Our desire at Calvary Chapel is to glorify the Lord in all that we do, including governing the church.

When discussing the leadership style of any church, at issue are not ancient traditions or current trends, but what God has revealed to us in His word. As I search the New Testament, nowhere do I see a church governed by only one leader; rather, I see a number of God-ordained leaders, charged with the responsibility of teaching, feeding, and protecting the church.

But who are these leaders? It's interesting to note that in Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word for elder (presbuteros); the word for bishop (episkopos); and the word for pastor (poimen) basically describe the different aspects of the same office.

This is aptly illustrated in 1 Peter 5:1-2: "Therefore I exhort the elders (presbuteros) among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd (poimaino) the flock of God among you, exercising oversight (episkopeo) not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God . . ." (NASB). We see similar language in Acts 20:18-35 and throughout the New Testament.

We must remember that the Holy Spirit is the One who ordains men into the ministry, not men themselves. In our "ordination" ceremonies, we are only confirming what the Lord has made obvious to us in the fellowship.

The qualifications for those who would be elders can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and again in Titus 1. The emphasis in both of these passages is that the men chosen be above reproach. That is, in their private, family, business, and spiritual lives, they so obviously strive to live purely before Almighty God, that no one can discredit them. This must also be borne out over a period of time: the Bible warns us not to appoint to this office anyone new to the faith.

Though the New Testament pattern is clearly a plurality of men running the church, there is biblical precedence for a significant leader among these men. Among Jesus' twelve disciples, Peter, James, and John seemed to be the leaders, with Peter being a significant leader. As we look at the early church, the Apostle Paul would fall into the same category. At Calvary Chapel we see that role being fulfilled by the senior pastor, whose role is not to lord it over others, but rather to lead with all diligence (Romans 12:8).

No doubt the strength and fruitfulness of any ministry rests in the quality of its leadership. It is encouraging to me to know that God has not called me to this task alone but has surrounded me with men who seek God and are gifted for service.

My prayer is that we would continue the pattern of godly leadership that's revealed to us in the New Testament. I know that the Lord will bless our obedience to His word.



I was reading about the "Apostolic Fathers." These church fathers were either the direct disciples of the apostles or just one person away. They were all martyred for the faith. What I found interesting and conflicting with ccdelco's teaching is that they believed in Christ's real presence in the bread and wine. They referred to it as a sacrifice and had altars in their churches. They were taught by the apostles themselves. Were the apostles teaching that Christ is present in the Eucharist? And why don't we?

Thank you for your question. It's obvious that you put much thought and research into a very serious subject.

In the New Testament Jesus left us two ordinances to observe: baptism and communion. Both are physical illustrations of spiritual events.

He commissioned disciples (all born-again believers) to "go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). Baptism thus becomes an outward or public expression of what has taken place in a person's life by the Spirit of God — becoming a new creation.

The Lord's Supper has similar significance. Every time we partake of the bread and the cup we are remembering Christ's substitutionary death for us, and looking forward to His imminent return.

This can plainly be seen as we look at the last Passover observance recorded in Scripture. It took place on the night our Lord was betrayed:

"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.' Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.'" (Matthew 26:26-29)

Looking at this chapter in context, one needs to understand that Jesus took two elements of the Passover meal, unleavened bread and wine, and referenced them symbolically to His impending death upon the cross. The bread pictured His body, given for the sins of the world; the wine, His blood, shed for the remission of our sins.

The celebration of Passover, which the Jews had kept for 1,500 years marking their deliverance from Egypt, would now be replaced with the celebration of a "new" covenant. This covenant is not a variation or enhancing of the Judaic system of law, sacrifices, and ordinances, but rather a brand new system of forgiveness and grace made possible by God's final Passover Lamb (Gen. 22:7, John 1:29).

Jesus, speaking of this Supper, declared that all believers were to "do this" in remembrance of Him. Each time we partake of the bread and the cup, we're declaring that Jesus is Lord and Savior by His death, and that He's coming again.

This simple truth was firmly understood by Paul the Apostle (1 Cor. 11:23-26), who, though not present at that Passover, received revelation from the Lord Himself.

The heart of your question is the belief that the bread and wine actually become the "flesh and blood" of Jesus Christ. This is called transubstantiation, a doctrine embraced by the Roman Catholic Church and some Christian Orthodox churches.

Time will not allow a detailed exposition of Scripture as a rebuttal to this doctrine. I suggest you read Matthew 26, along with all of John 6 (specifically verse 63), and ask the Lord to reveal its meaning to you.

Noted Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe comments on Matthew 26:26-29: "The text does not indicate that anything special or mysterious happened to these two elements. They remained bread and the 'fruit of the vine.' They now conveyed a deeper meaning: the body and blood of Jesus Christ" (Bible Exposition Commentary).

As far as the early church fathers and the information you've uncovered, let's always remember two things:

One, that church history is not our model for orthodox faith and practice; the Scriptures are. Some of what's been done in the name of Christ over the last 2,000 years includes things no Christian should be proud of. Sadly, some Christians have even used Scripture to support ungodly practices, slavery being one example.

Two, that as early as Paul's day, he felt the need to meet with the elders in Ephesus (the early church fathers) to give them this warning:

"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20:28-31)

With the same conviction, Jude, in his short letter, warned the church about such individuals, though in his heart he wanted to speak of the joys of salvation.

Even great reformers like Calvin and Luther, who did much to bring salvation by grace and many other biblical doctrines back to the Church, weren't perfect men by any stretch of the imagination, leaving some unbiblical practices (e.g., infant baptism) unaltered.

This is why the Scriptures, not tradition or church practice, must be our final authority.

For more information on what Calvary Chapel believes on this and other doctrinal issues, click here.


End Times

People say there are many signs that point to when Jesus will come again. Can you name some of them for me?

In the last 40 years, we've witnessed a tremendous increase in the teaching, preaching, and writing about eschatology (the study of end times). While I believe this has been healthy for God's people and has aroused the interest of unbelievers, it also has led to some unproductive conjecture, such as an assortment of predictions about the coming of our Lord and what its precursors are. Unfortunately, when these predictions fail, the church loses credibility and people are led astray.

Let me begin by clarifying what I mean when I say that Jesus is coming again.

At Calvary Chapel we hold to a premillennial view of the Lord's return, that is, a literal and physical second coming of Christ prior to His 1000-year reign. He will return to bring judgment upon the earth and reconciliation to the nation Israel. Seven years prior to His second coming, in an event known as the rapture, He will appear briefly to pull all true believers out of the earth. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:17.)

There are no signs or events that must take place before the rapture, though some would use the "birth pains" of Matthew 24 as a possible example. The Bible does tell us the condition of the world in these end times, however, in places such as 2 Peter 3:3 and 2 Timothy 3:1.

The events leading to the second coming of Christ will happen during the tribulation period, one of the most documented times in all of Scripture. (See, for example, Matthew 24 and Revelation 6-9.)

While we are all curious concerning the times we live in, Jesus clearly stated in Acts 1:8 that our focus should be, not on various end-times scenarios, but on testifying to non-believers of who He is.

He is risen from the dead. He is Savior. He is Lord of these times and the times to come. And He is coming soon.


Noah's Ark

Is it true that there have been sightings of Noah's ark and it still exists on Mt. Ararat, or is this another hoax like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot?

In Genesis 8, the Bible tells us that after seven months upon the floodwaters the ark rested "on the mountains of Ararat" (Genesis 8:4). This is one of the first places mentioned in the Bible that can be located today with a fair amount of certainty. Mt. Ararat (16,854 ft.) is situated in eastern Turkey, at the borders of Iran, Armenia (formerly U.S.S.R.), and Nakchivan. This volcanic mountain is the highest peak in the Middle East and the second highest in Europe.

As far as sightings go, many over the centuries have claimed to either have seen the ark or found debris. Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, wrote of the legends of the ark, as did many through the early centuries. In 1887, two Persian princes claimed they saw the ark and gave this description: "The bow and stern were clearly in view, but the center was buried in snow. The wood was peculiar, dark reddish in color, almost iron-colored, in fact, and seemed very thick" (Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land through the Five Books of Moses, Bruce Feiler, William Morrow Publishers).

Other sightings include one in 1916 by two Russian pilots, dozens by WWII pilots in the 1940s, and by U.S. U-2 spy planes in the 1950s. One peculiar sighting worth mentioning took place in 1977 while Air Force One was flying to Tehran, where then-president Jimmy Carter was to attend a New Year's Eve party given by the Shah of Iran. Said UPI photographer Ronald Bennett, who was on board: "It is my opinion that the president probably had Air Force One routed over Mt. Ararat and most likely the ark too." Once again, those who claimed to have seen the ark said it was dark in appearance.

Naturally one would wonder, if all this were true and the biblical record so verifiable, why the Turkish authorities wouldn't reveal the findings and bring in billions in tourist dollars. One explanation is that the ark simply isn't there. The other is a complex religious situation.

Mt. Ararat is holy to almost everyone around it. The Turks call it Agri Dagi-—the Mountain of Pain-—and the Kurds call it the Mountain of Fire. Armenians also worship the mountain. For many years Turkish law forbade all climbs; now they allow climbs with a permit and use of a certified Turkish guide. Arrangements can take many months to complete.

One final fundamental problem is that Islam is the predominant religion in Turkey and much of the Middle East, and the Koran claims that rather than on Mt. Ararat the ark actually rests on top of Mt. Judi or "Al-Judi" (Sura 11:44). You can see how it would be in the Koran's followers' best interest to conceal any findings about the ark.

If you're still curious, there are over 50 websites dedicated to Noah's ark, as well as hundreds of books on the subject.

One thing we do know is that Jesus used the topic of Noah and the flood as an illustration of what would take place in the end times:

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the Hood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matt. 24:37-39)

The point is, whether the sightings of Noah's ark are true or not, the story of Noah's ark in the Bible is true. Jesus believed in it, and so do I.



Does Satan have complete freedom to tempt and afflict God's people, or does he need God's permission?

This question is a popular one, and certain misconceptions within the body of Christ have caused great confusion on the behalf of God's people.

First, let me say that in our contemporary society we've given Satan far too much credit for the complications in our lives. Temptation, the Bible tells us, begins when a man or woman "is drawn away by his [or her] own desires and enticed (James 1:14).

This is a concept Eve failed to grasp in the Garden when she blamed the serpent for her own choice to eat of the forbidden fruit. Hence, "the devil made me do it," is an axiom still used today by Christians.

Satan is indeed an adversary, an accuser of the brethren, a thief who has come to steal and to sift your joy. How ever, through Christ's atoning work at Calvary and the subsequent new birth, Satan is a defeated foe.

Though Satan is defeated and limited in authority, one must understand that he is still a liar and extremely crafty (2 Cor. 11:3). His inroads into the Christian's life quite often come via the mind. His ability to plant doubt in the mind regarding God's love is evident throughout Scripture and is still the greatest weapon in his arsenal. It's through such "fiery darts" (Eph. 6:16) that he seeks to debilitate us in our walk with God and our ability to bear fruit for the kingdom.

In regard to affliction and even physical maladies, the book of Job gives us some understanding concerning Satan's ability to attack Christians. In its opening chapters there is clear indication that Satan must gain the approval of God in order to touch believers.

Even in this situation, however, we see that what Satan desires for evil God can use for good: Job, when he had come through his time of great difficulty, had a more mature faith and a closer relationship with God. (See Job 42:1-6 with Romans 8:28 and James 1:12.)

To live one's life in an attempt to figure all of this out concerning the cause of our oppression I believe is wrong. The majority of biblical texts remind us to focus on the power of God and the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, not the devil. It is through prayer, the studying of God's word, and our complete identification with Christ's atoning work that we can be victorious. This is called the believer's "armor."

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:10-13)



Are all sins the same or are some sins worse than others?

The answer to this question is "yes."

From a purely human perspective, yes, some sins are indeed worse than others. Jesus responded to Pilate by saying, "The one who delivered me to you has the greater sin" (John 19:11). Paul, in his letters to the Corinthians, speaks of sinning against one's own body (sexual sins). Obviously, in a civil society, murdering or raping someone is worse than telling a white lie. No one would disagree or argue the point that the works of people like Stalin, Hitler, or Saddam Hussein are far worse than those of the average citizen.

However, from a purely judicial sense, yes, all sin is the same in that it separates us from a holy God. "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 Jn. 1:5). This is what will make hell so unbearable, in that human beings will be isolated from a loving God for all of eternity, with no hope of reconciliation.

This can best be understood by looking at the Genesis record. From a human standpoint, mankind's second sin, Cain's murder of his brother Abel, seems more sinful than the first, Eve's disobedience in eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, judicially speaking we learn two things concerning the ramifications of our sin.

The first involves our understanding of what God requires. The Lord declared to Adam that in the day he would eat of that tree, he would "surely die." In other words, Adam understood with distinct clarity not only the will of God (not partaking of the forbidden fruit), but also the penalty of his actions. In the New Testament, we are told, "To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (Jas. 4:17). This is why the punishment of the angels who aligned with the rebellion of Satan in Heaven was so severe: they had sinned against great light. (See Jude 6.)

The second thing that we learn is that God is compassionate toward sinful creatures. The Bible declares that "in Adam" we all sinned. In other words, sin is now a part of our nature. We are told in 1 John that "if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn. 1:8).

None of our good works, none of our religious deeds can ever atone for the sins we have committed against God. The good news is that Jesus Christ came to die in our place and to atone for the sins of the world. If we acknowledge this, we are forgiven. Isn't that great news?

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