Expressing our Love for Christ

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Soviet Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the author of Tortured for Christ, suffered terribly for the Lord. Yet he said that even while in prison, he saw fellow Soviet believers practice generous giving. “When we were given one slice of bread a week and dirty soap every day, we decided we would faithfully ‘tithe’ even that. Every tenth week we took the slice of bread and gave it to the weaker brethren as our ‘tithe’ to the Master.”

I tend to think that God did not demand that these prisoners tithe their bread and soap. Yet they felt compelled to, in order to express their love for God. After understanding the awesome sacrifice Christ had made in expressing His love for them on the cross, they wanted a way to express their love for Christ. They wanted to give all of themselves to Christ since He had given all of Himself for them.

It is the same case with the woman in Mark 14:3-9, who broke open a bottle of ointment costing a year’s wages, so she could anoint the feet of Jesus. She was simply giving all she had because Jesus was giving all He had for her. Like the Soviet prisoners she needed a way to express her love.

God did not give us the tithe and offering system because he needed our money, but because He knew we too would need a way to express our love. God nor the church needs our money. Both were getting along just fine before we came along and both will do just fine after we are gone.

I have a plaque with a picture of the cross and written on it are the words,

“ I asked Jesus how much do you love me?”

“This much” He said, ’Then He spread out His arms and died.”

God will finish the work with or without our money. Yet He has given us the tithe and offering system so that when He asks us, “How much do you love me?” We will have a way to answer.

You may study this week’s lesson here.

What Does Tithing on Your Increase Mean?

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Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. Deuteronomy 14:22 KJV

Tithing on your “increase” is different than tithing on your “gross” or “net” as an employee. This affects people who are self-employed and/or invest in their business. An illustration I use when giving a Bible study on tithing is, that if you get paid $50.00 for mowing your neighbors lawn, and you paid $5.00 for the gas, then you actually made $45.00. $45.00 is your increase or profit. You would tithe on the $45.00 since that is what you actually made. By the way the $45.00 is what you would also pay taxes on, so both God and “Caesar” realize you made $45.00, and not $50.00.

Of course there could be other expenses too, like the cost of the lawn mower, but I think you get the gist of the illustration. Of course the cost of the lemonade you bought from the stand across the street would not count as a business expense because even though it quenched your thirst, it was not a direct business expense.

I’ll give several other examples, as I see them, and I encourage our readers to contribute their examples.

Now “Caesar” realizes if you work in an office or campus, that driving to work and back is not a direct investment to your business. You do not write off travel expenses to work and back. However you do write off driving expenses while working. For example if I’m a courier doing deliveries, I would deduct travel expenses from what I am paid to find my actual profit, and then tithe and pay taxes on the actual profit. By the way your gross income would be considered your actual profit. Let’s say I pick up a kayak in Sydney and drive 170 kilometers to deliver the kayak in Newcastle, for $525. To find my profit I would subtract 66 cents a km, which would be $112, leaving me with a profit of $413. I would tithe on the $413, which would be $42 (rounded up). Of course I can round that up to $45.00 or even $50.00!

Now if I drove 10 kilometers to make the pickup in Sydney I would not count that against my profit because that was just getting to work. It was not an expense of the actual work itself. The way I see it, only things that you invested directly to making your profit would be deducted from your profit. Now if I traveled from my home to a courier training workshop in Melbourne, that would be a travel expense relating directly to my business and profit. Everyone needs to decide between themselves and God if something is a direct business expense.

Again, your profit is counted as your gross income which you would be taxed on and would tithe on. Sometimes when I am giving this study, people will ask me if they can deduct their home electric bill from their gross income and then tithe after that. The answer is “no.” Your home electric bill is not a part of your business or an investment in your profit. “Caesar” does not let you write off your home electric bill as it has nothing to do with your profit if you are not working at home.

You need to follow your own conscience and Bible principles on determining what your increase is, but as a general rule, if “Caesar’ sees an item as a business expense then it is reasonable to count it as a business expense regarding your increase (profit) and tithe.

I hope this conversation has been helpful, and we can discuss it further in the comment section.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.

2: God’s Covenants With us-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

Prepared by William Earnhardt, For Sabbath School Class January 14, 2023.

Main Theme: Our responses to God’s promises determines if they are fulfilled for us.

Read in Class: 1 John 5:13, Matthew 10:22 and 2 Peter 1:10-11. Define the common thread in these passages.

Study: How do these passages say we receive the gift of salvation?

Apply: Though salvation is an unmerited gift, what’s the difference between those who accept the gift and those who don’t? What does accepting this gift require that we do?

Share: Your friend tells you she believes on once saved always saved. She believes there is no way a saved person can lose salvation. Using Scripture, what do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What great blessings are promised the people? But what must they do to receive them?

Apply: What does it mean for us, today, to “hearken diligently” to what God tells us to do?

Share: Your friend tells you the book of Deuteronomy is in the Old Testament. We don’t have to obey, only believe. What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Proverbs 3:9-10 and Malachi 3:10-11. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: What are the promises and the obligations found in these verses?

Apply: What does your tithing (or lack thereof) say about your own spirituality and relationship to God?

Share: Your friend says there is no way he can tithe and feed his family. He says God understands He can’t afford to tithe. What do you tell your friend? How could 1 Kings 17:8-16 help, Especially verse 13?

Read in Class: 2 Chronicles 7:14. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What are the “ifs” and “thens” of God’s proposal here?

Apply: What does it mean to “heal their land?” In what ways do we need healing today?

Share: Can you think of a friend or family member who is struggling with making a full commitment to Christ? Besides praying for them, is there any way you could speak a word of encouragement to them this week?

Mysticism and Calling on the Name of the Lord

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13 NKJV

A while back I was having a group Bible study about the Sabbath. During the study I was surprised when an Adventist friend told the group and me, “It does not matter if we keep the Sabbath anymore. Romans 10:13 says if we call upon the name of the Lord we will be saved. We don’t have to worry about obedience anymore. All we have to do is call upon the name of the Lord and we will be saved.”  

I shared with my friend and the group that being saved means being saved from disobedience. 

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience… Romans 1:5 NKJV

And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. Hebrews 5:9 NKJV

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NKJV

After all, in order for Jesus to be called our Savior He has to actually save us from something. He saves us from disobedience. 

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, Ephesians 2:1-2 NKJV

I also shared with my friend that there is no mystical magic in just saying the name of the Lord. Calling Jesus Lord does no good unless you genuinely make Jesus the Lord of your life. Jesus talks about a group of people who called Him Lord, but never actually obeyed Him. Therefore He was not really their Lord. Saying, “Lord, Lord” is not a magic word or some mystical chant. Jesus describes the group who seemed to be using the name Lord as though it was some form of mysticism. I think the New Living Translation makes it clear. 

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-27 NLT

Calling on the name of the Lord does no good unless we surrender our hearts in loving obedience to Jesus and actually make Him Lord of our lives. After talking about those who use the name Lord in vain, Jesus describes a group of people like the ones Paul later wrote about, when Paul wrote,

“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV.

Here is how Jesus describes those who really  call on His name out of a pure, genuine heart.

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 NLT 

Those who call on the name of the Lord as if the name “Lord” was mystical will be lost. Those who call on the name of the Lord out of a pure heart, and genuinely Make Him Lord will be saved from disobedience. They will make Jesus the Lord of their life and enjoy the fruits of obedience. They will enjoy full salvation. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

The Fires of Hell in Light of the Cross

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To me, the biggest lie out of the Dark Ages is not that Sabbath was changed to Sunday, or that when you die you go straight to heaven. To me, no lie distorts the character of my loving heavenly father like the lie that sinners will be tormented throughout the endless ages of eternity. Fact is:

It is no arbitrary decree on the part of God that excludes the wicked from heaven; they are shut out by their own unfitness for its companionship. The glory of God would be to them a consuming fire. They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, page 17

Did you ever notice that Jesus did not tell the demons He could not be around them? The demons told Jesus they could not around Him! (For example, see Matthew 8:29.) So to the unconverted heart, the glory of God is hell, while to the converted heart God’s glory is paradise!

When the fire in Revelation 20:9 comes down out of heaven and consumes the wicked, that fire is the actual presence of God. God’s presence will be hell to those who hate Him, while it will be paradise to those who love Him. I believe this is why the Bible refers to an eternal fire. God is the eternal fire. But God’s love is not going to torture the wicked throughout eternity. God’s love will burn for eternity, but it will put sinners out of their misery instead of torturing them for eternity.

A skewed understanding of hell skews our understanding of God’s love and character, which is exactly what Satan wants. To properly understand the punishment of the wicked, like all other Bible teachings, we must look at it in the light of the cross. Please allow me to share a lesson from my series of In Light of the Cross Bible Study Guides:

The Punishment of the Wicked Overview:

The wicked will be destroyed by fire. The punishment will be everlasting, but the punishing will not. The wicked will die instead of being tormented for all eternity. See John 3:16Romans 6:23Obadiah 1:16Matthew 10:28Ezekiel 18:420.

Importance of knowing the truth about the punishment of the wicked:

The teaching of people being tortured throughout all eternity is the most satanic false doctrine of all! It totally misrepresents the love and character of God, making it impossible to love and know Him the way He loves and knows us.

The Importance of Understanding the Punishment of the Wicked in Light of the Cross:

Many churches use hell and fear as a motivation for doing good because they do not properly understand the love motivation. They do not understand the depths of Christ’s sacrifice in dying the second death. They seem to understand the cross to be a mere pain endurance marathon instead of seeing a Savior who was actually willing to say good-bye to life and heaven forever in order to save the world.

When the early church saw the depths of Jesus’ love and sacrifice it turned the whole world upside down! It changed everything. God’s love constrained, empowered and motivated the believers. And this love is the only motivation that will actually succeed today in transforming people. In Galatians 6, Paul writes of a faith that works by love, not a fear of punishment. In John 14, Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” not “if you don’t want to go to hell you better keep my commandments.” Followers of Jesus must uplift the cross and the truth about the cross at all times.

I have a friend who is involved in a prison ministry that visits a juvenile detention center. He told me that they had recently shared the truth about hell with the young men there and that the chaplain at the jail got very upset with him for letting the young men know that the punishment of the wicked is not an eternity spent in hell but rather death just like the Bible says in John 3:16 and Romans 6:23. The chaplain did not want the offenders to know the truth about the punishment of the wicked because he wanted the fear of being tormented for all eternity to motivate them to behave.

Young men in juvenile centers and people everywhere else need to know that there is a God who did way more than suffer for six hours on a cross. He faced the second death for them. He loved them more than He loved his own life. He loved them so much that when tempted to come down from the cross and go back to heaven He chose to die instead. Jesus stayed on that cross for the young men in the juvenile detention center because the thought of heaven without them was hell to Jesus!

When the love motivation receives its proper emphasis, it will accomplish so much more than fear motivation. Some people quote John 3:16 while preaching of an eternal torment of sinners, but that verse clearly says those who do not believe will perish instead of being tortured throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity.

Further study on the punishment of the wicked:

What is the opposite of eternal life?

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NLT

Those who don’t believe perish. They are not tortured for all eternity.

God did not kick Eve out of paradise just because she took a piece of fruit she was told not to. The serpent told lies about God’s love and interest in Eve’s welfare, that Eve and all mankind bought into. When Eve stopped believing in God’s love she stopped believing in her only Source of life. At the cross Jesus died for our sin of unbelief, and when we believe again in His love, we gain back the life we lost when stopped believing in His love. This is the message of john 3:16.

What is the wages of sin?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NLT

Note that the wages of sin is not eternal torment in hell.

What becomes of the soul or person that sins?

For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die. Ezekiel 18:4 NLT

KJV says soul, NLT says person. Both the KJV and NLT make it clear that the entire soul or person dies in hell and will not be tormented throughout eternity.

How long does the devil have?

Therefore, rejoice, O heavens!
And you who live in the heavens, rejoice!
But terror will come on the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you in great anger,
knowing that he has little time.” Revelation 12:12 NLT

The devil does not have eternity in hell or anywhere else. He has but a little time left to exist.

What will happen to the devil or Satan?

You defiled your sanctuaries with your many sins and your dishonest trade. So I brought fire out from within you, and it consumed you. I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All who knew you are appalled at your fate. You have come to a terrible end, and you will exist no more.” Ezekiel 28:18-19 NLT

Satan, like all sinners, will be annihilated and exist no more.

What happens to both body and soul in hell?

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 NLT

Neither soul nor body are tortured throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Both are destroyed.

What is the final end of the wicked?

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all. But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Malachi 4:1-3 NLT

There will be nothing left of the wicked – nothing but ashes.

What does the lake of fire stand for?

Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. Revelation 20:14 NLT

What is God’s promise?

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3- 4 NLT

Sinners cannot be eternally tormented in light of the promise that there will be no more pain. The promise is unconditional.

Can we trust that promise?

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5 NLT

You may watch a video presentation of this topic by Pastor Earnhardt here. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

10: The Fire of Hell-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School Class, Sabbath December 3, 2022.

Main Theme: We will look at some un-Biblical theories about life after death as well as what the Bible teaches about life after death.

Read in Class: Mark 9::42-48 and Isaiah 66:24. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: How do you understand the expression “their worm does not die?” Click here for a hint.

Apply: In the end, we are either totally saved or totally lost. There is no middle ground. We can have either eternal life or will face eternal destruction. What choices do you have to make today? How should this reality — eternal life or eternal destruction — impact those choices?

Share: Your friend says we all are going to spend eternity somewhere, either in heaven or hell. How do you answer your friend? Click here for hints.

Read in Class: Malachi 4:1 and Jude 7. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: How can these passages help us better understand the notion of “eternal fire” or the idea, as Jesus had expressed it, that the lost will be in “everlasting fire” (Matt. 18:8) or in a “fire that shall never be quenched”? (Mark 9:43, NKJV). Remember a camp fire can disintegrate a marshmallow and keep on burning. Just because the fire continues to burn does not mean the marshmallow still exists.

Apply: As unfortunate as the fires of hell are, what does the truth about hell reveal to us about God’s love, especially in contrast to the idea of eternal torment?

Share: Your friend says that the Bible says the wicked will burn forever so that must mean that they will be alive and burning through all eternity. How would Exodus 21:6 help your friend understand the meaning of the word “forever, simply meanimg for the duration or until you die?

Read in Class: Ecclesiastes 9:10, Ezekiel 18:20-22,and Hebrews 9:27. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: How do these passages refute the theory of purgatory?

Apply: What do errors like purgatory or eternal torment teach us about the importance of doctrine? Why is what we believe of importance, and not just in whom we believe?

Share: Your friend says that we may not be able to buy our way into heaven but if our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds our works can get us into heaven. What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Acts 2:29, 34-35 and 1 Corinthians 15:16-18. What is the common thread of these passages?

Study:  How do these passages shed light on the state of the dead and those awaiting resurrection?

Apply: What are ways in which you could help people understand that the idea that the dead are asleep in the ground is really “good news,” in the sense that they truly are at rest and know no pain and suffering?

Share: Your friend who said we will all spend eternity in heaven or hell is still confused, thinking the soul is immortal, and we all have eternal life either in heaven or in hell. How could you use 1 John 5:3-12 and 1 Timothy 5:15-16 to show your friend that only those who accept the gift of salvation have eternal life?

Did King Saul Talk to Samuel After he Died?

While we are looking at apparent “contrary passages” in Scripture, let’s take a look at another one not included in this week’s lesson. In 1 Samuel 28:1-25, even though Saul has outlawed mediums he goes to consult one. He wants to talk to Samuel, who is dead. Ironically, he never wanted to talk to Samuel while he was living, but now he does. Saul’s visit with the medium goes like this.

Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”  When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!”  And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.” So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down. 1 Samuel 28:11-14 NKJV

At a careless glance it sure looks like Saul is talking to Samuel after he has died. Right? However, the Bible never says it was Samuel. Verse 14 says, “Saul perceived that it was Samuel.” What we perceived that we saw is not always what we actually saw. One synonym for “perceive” is “think.” So, Saul thought it was Samuel, but it wasn’t Samuel. Samuel was dead. At a careless glance it may look like Samuel actually appeared to Saul, but there is a big difference between perception and fact! I saw a documentary a few years ago about the first trip to the moon. One thing the astronauts had to be careful about was depth perception. Since the entire moon all looks the same, without any scenery or landscape, there is no depth perception. An astronaut may look at what he thinks is a little chughole, but in reality it is a canyon! You may think, oh well, there is not much weight on the moon, so no big deal if they fall into a canyon. They won’t get hurt. True, but they would also be stuck in that canyon with no way to get back to the spaceship. So, an inaccurate perception could be a fatal mistake. We are warned in the last days that Satan, through spiritualism, will be deceiving people to make inaccurate, fatal misperceptions. 

The doctrine of man’s consciousness in death, especially the belief that spirits of the dead return to minister to the living, has prepared the way for modern spiritualism. If the dead are admitted to the presence of God and holy angels, and privileged with knowledge far exceeding what they before possessed, why should they not return to the earth to enlighten and instruct the living? If, as taught by popular theologians, spirits of the dead are hovering about their friends on earth, why should they not be permitted to communicate with them, to warn them against evil, or to comfort them in sorrow? How can those who believe in man’s consciousness in death reject what comes to them as divine light communicated by glorified spirits? Here is a channel regarded as sacred, through which Satan works for the accomplishment of his purposes. The fallen angels who do his bidding appear as messengers from the spirit world. While professing to bring the living into communication with the dead, the prince of evil exercises his bewitching influence upon their minds. He has power to bring before men the appearance of their departed friends. The counterfeit is perfect; the familiar look, the words, the tone, are reproduced with marvelous distinctness. Many are comforted with the assurance that their loved ones are enjoying the bliss of heaven, and without suspicion of danger, they give ear “to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” When they have been led to believe that the dead actually return to communicate with them, Satan causes those to appear who went into the grave unprepared. They claim to be happy in heaven and even to occupy exalted positions there, and thus the error is widely taught that no difference is made between the righteous and the wicked. The pretended visitants from the world of spirits sometimes utter cautions and warnings which prove to be correct. Then, as confidence is gained, they present doctrines that directly undermine faith in the Scriptures. With an appearance of deep interest in the well-being of their friends on earth, they insinuate the most dangerous errors. The fact that they state some truths, and are able at times to foretell future events, gives to their statements an appearance of reliability; and their false teachings are accepted by the multitudes as readily, and believed as implicitly, as if they were the most sacred truths of the Bible. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 551-552. 

I knew an elderly Adventist woman, who lived in a small Adventist community. Her husband died and was buried in a cemetery just a block or so form her house. About every day, she would visit his grave and “talk” to him. One day she looked out her front window and perceived to see him walking up the sidewalk. He stopped at the window and stared at her through the glass. Being an Adventist and knowing the state of the dead, she knew it was not her husband but a demon. This scared her into realizing she had been putting herself on the devil’s playground by her excessive visits, talking to her dead husband at his grave.  After this experience she never returned to his grave. After all, she did not need to talk to her dead husband. She needed to be talking to Jesus, who could hear what she was saying, just like Saul did not need to be talking to dead Samuel. He should have been talking to God. 

I don’t know if a demon really personified itself as this woman’s husband or if it was just her imagination. She claimed it was real and not just her imagination.  Either way, it was a direct result of spiritualism, acting like she was talking to the dead. 

Likewise, Saul put himself on the devil’s playground by talking to dead Samuel, and allowing demons to personify themselves, making Saul think he was seeing and communicating with a dead man. The Bible does not say it was Samuel. It says Saul perceived it was Samuel. It was a deception. The Bible is clear that the dead know nothing. Meanwhile, we are free to talk to God who is all-knowing. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

9: Contrary Passages?-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School Class, Sabbath, November 26, 2022.

Main Theme: When properly understood, seemingly contrary passages are not so contrary after all.

Read in Class: Luke 16:19-31. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: How do we know this story is not a literal description of the afterlife? For hints click here.

Apply: “But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:31, NKJV). What message from Jesus’ powerful words should we take for ourselves regarding the authority of the Bible and how we respond to it?

Read in Class: Luke 23:43, John 20:17, and John 14:1-3. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: How should the promise to the repentant thief on the cross be understood in light of Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene and His promise to His disciples? For hints click here.

Apply: Read the story of the repentant thief (Luke 23:39-43), who, despite his sin, despite the fact that he had nothing to offer God, was promised eternal life by Christ. How does this story powerfully reveal the great truth of salvation by faith alone? In what ways are we just like that thief? In what ways do we differ?

Read in Class: Philippians 1:21-24 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: When did Paul expect to be “with Christ” (Phil. 1:23) and “with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17)? For hints click here.

Apply: Particularly in hard times, who hasn’t thought about how nice it would be to close your eyes in death and, the next thing you know, “be with Christ”? How does this thought help us understand what Paul was saying in Philippians?

Read in Class: 1 Peter 3:13-20. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How did Christ preach “to the spirits in prison … in the days of Noah”? (See also Gen. 4:10.) For hints click here.

Apply: The flood was present truth in Noah’s day, what Bible truths especially apply to us today?

Read in Class: Revelation 6:9-11. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How can the “souls” of the dead martyrs cry “under the altar”?

From Difficult Texts Made Simple:

This is obviously a symbolic verse. In order to be taken literally not only would the souls be in heaven but they all would be under an altar. Also they would be pleading for vengeance for being in heaven. This simply is not realistic. We know from our reading of the entire scriptures that the dead are just that-dead. Even this passage says that they must rest a while yet, implying they are not literally in heaven now, but their cause has come before the altar and before God. This was the case when Abel was killed by Cain. God said, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” Genesis 4:10 

Abel’s blood did not literally grow lips and cry, but his cause came before God. So in the fifth seal of Revelation we see that God has not forgotten His faithful martyrs but has heard their cause even as He did Abel’s. After all, why would they be crying for God to avenge the ones who killed them and put them in the presence of God? What an insult to God this would be.

Apply: Who (especially of those who have been victims of injustice) hasn’t cried out for justice, which has not yet come? Why must we, by faith, trust that ultimately the justice so lacking in this world will nevertheless come? What comfort can you draw from this wonderful promise?

Share: Can you think of someone who could benefit from a proper understanding of the passages we studied this week? How can you share your understanding of these passages with someone in a way that will give them encouragement?