QUESTION: Please explain the meaning of the purification mentioned in Hebrews 1:3.
The text reads: “After [the Son] had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”* The verse combines two elements: Cleansing and exaltation, but it does not specifically state how the purification happens. In order to clarify the text, let’s examine two other passages where those elements are also present, then explore the significance of purification in Hebrews.
1. Cleansing and Sacrifice: Notice these two passages: “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (10:12). “[Christ] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2). The first passage reads “one sacrifice for sins” instead of the “purification for sins,” thus clarifying its meaning. The second one establishes that the sacrifice was Christ’s death on the cross; He made purification for sin in the sense that He offered Himself as a sacrificial victim. The cleansing/atoning sacrifice was offered once. In His exaltation He continues to officiate as our high priest in the heavenly sanctuary (8:2). This work is directly connected to our cleansing from sin.
2. Cleansing and the First Covenant: It is through Christ’s sacrifice that the sins committed under the first covenant were finally forgiven: “Now that [Christ] has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (9:15). According to Hebrews the sins committed under the first covenant needed cleansing because the blood of bulls and goats could not remove sin or purify sinners. The sacrifice of Christ legitimized the cleansing performed in type under the first covenant. This was a cleansing of sins committed under the old covenant as transgressions of the covenant law. This retrospective effect of the cleansing power of the sacrifice of Christ is not unique to Hebrews; it is implied elsewhere in the New Testament (cf. Rom. 3:25; Acts 17:30).
3. Cleansing of Believers: The purification of sin thr-ough the sacrifice of Christ is effective today for those who believe. The cleansing power of the cross now applies to those who find in Christ their Savior and heavenly High Priest: “The blood of Christ … [will] cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14). All are called to repent from their dead works (6:1) and are assured that they will experience purification through Christ. This present cleansing is an intrinsic part of the intercessory work of Christ at the right hand of God (7:25), and addresses not only our past sins but also the nondeliberate sins committed during our Christian pilgrimage (10:26). In that journey we must “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (12:1). Through the power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, where He bore the sins of many (9:28), our sins are forgiven by God. In the Israelite system this was represented through the daily services. The sacrifice of Christ and His mediation fulfill the typological significance of the daily services.
4. Cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary: The cleansing power of Christ’s sacrifice also has a future expression, represented in the cleansing ritual of the Day of Atonement: “It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (9:23). This passage clearly presupposes a typological interpretation of the Day of Atonement. By referring to the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, the apostle is pointing to the consummation of the cleansing effectiveness of the death or sacrifice of Christ that will result in the vindication of God and His people, and in the consummation of their salvation at His second coming (9:28).
This cleansing also looks forward to the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom (12:28) and to the moment when all the enemies of Christ will “be made his footstool” (10:13; cf. 2:14), that is to say, when He fully and finally defeats them. This executive judgment “will consume the enemies of God” (10:27) in the final cleansing of the universe from the presence of sin and evil powers.
*All scripture quotations in this article are from the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV).
QUESTION:What does it mean that God searches “the reins and hearts” (Rev. 2:23, KJV)?
The Bible associates certain emotional and psychological experiences with body organs. This is not totally foreign to the way we also use the language of emotions. In the English-speaking world the heart is the seat of emotions. We tell our spouses, “I love you with all my heart.” Obviously the reference is not to the physical organ inside our chests. We mean that our love comes from the very depth of our being, and is, therefore, genuine. In the Bible this practice is much more common. I will deal only with the usage of the term “kidneys” (“reins”).
1. A Physical Organ: The Israelites knew about the physical organ known as the kidneys. The kidneys of the sacrificial animals were burnt on the altar of sacrifices, probably because they were usually covered with fat (Ex. 29:13; Lev. 3:4), and the Israelites had been for-bidden to consume the fat of animals. The Jewish thinker Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 B.C- A.D. 45), appears to suggest that the kidneys were offered to God because they purified the blood (Special Laws 1:216). In Babylonian divinatory rituals the kidneys of some animals were used to predict the future. Thus, burning them on the altar was, for the Israelites, a rejection of such pagan practices. Like many other parts of the body, kidneys were used to designate the whole person (a part of the body represented the totality of the body or person). The psalmist writes, “You created my inmost being [kelāyôth, ‘kidneys’]” (139:13),* meaning “my body.” Since the kidneys were located in the innermost part of the human body, it was easy to use them metaphorically to designate the innermost aspects of human personality.
2. Seat of Emotions: The Israelites understood that emotions could not be separated from the physical body. The father tells his son, “My inmost being [kidneys] will rejoice when your lips speak what is right” (Prov. 23:16). In this case, the literal translation was avoided in English in order to indicate that the term “kidneys” is being used metaphorically to indicate that joy is deep and possesses the whole person. Negative emotions were also associated with the kidneys. When the psalmist wrote “my spirit [was] embittered” (Ps. 73:21), he was literally saying, “my kidneys were pierced,” meaning that he was emotionally disturbed and in profound distress. The image is that of a person who has been pierced by an arrow to the kidneys and is in pain, fearing death, emotionally agonizing. In fact, Job describes his emotional distress by using the image of archers shooting arrows at him and piercing his kidneys (16:12, 13; cf. Lam. 3:13). His innermost being was emotionally upset.
3. Seat of Character: According to Jeremiah the people of Israel constantly spoke about God with their lips, but He was “far from their hearts [kidneys]” (12:2), that is to say, God’s message had not transformed their inner being. Here the kidneys are associated with character. In cases like this they become a synonym for the biblical term “heart,” which represents, among other things, the rational, moral qualities of a person. They symbolically refer to human self-awareness or the innermost mind. It could, then, designate the conscience. The psalmist may have had this in mind when he wrote, “Even at night my heart [kidneys] instructs me” (16:7).
4. Object of Divine Analysis: Since the kidneys are associated with character development, it is easy to conclude that God examines them. The phrase you quoted—God searches “the reins and the heart”—is used several times in the Old Testament. It assumes that God sees the innermost being of humans and can make righteous decisions based on that knowledge (Jer. 11:20; 17:10). The psalmist has nothing to hide, so he says to the Lord, “Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart [kidneys] and my mind [lēb, ‘heart’]” (26:2). By examining the kidneys God can identify the wicked and bring to an end their violence (Ps. 7:9). The combination of kidneys and heart in the phrase indicates that God examines the totality of the person.
The use of human organs to refer to human emotions reveals that biblical writers had a wholistic understanding of human nature. The physical body was not detached from the spiritual and emotional sides of the person.
*Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are from the New International Version.
QUESTION: I’ve heard people talk about apostasy. What is it?
The word “apostasy” comes from the Greek apostasía, which means “rebellion.” In Scripture it has a religious content worth exploring. In Christian theology the reformers used it to describe the condition of the church during the Middle Ages. But it has also become important among those who promote double predestination, the notion that some have been chosen by God for salvation and others for destruction. It is argued that those elected for salvation will never fall from grace; they will not apostatize. I cannot deal here with the details of those claims, but I will describe some aspect of the concept of apostasy in Scripture.
1.Apostasy and Heresy:It is important to distinguish between apostasy and heresy as religious terms. Heresy is commonly understood as a deviation from, or falsifi-cation of, biblical truth. It presupposes that a biblical body of truth is valid for all and that no one has the right or authority to alter it. It also assumes that there is a criter-ion to distinguish truth from its falsification or deviation.
In Christian history two specific instruments have been credited with that authority. The first was the teaching ministry of the Christian church. That is to say, the church through its religious leaders interpreted and defined truth for believers. This understanding was rejected by the reformers.
The second instrument is Scripture. The Bible is the only and exclusive instrument by which truth is defined and falsehood identified. Adventists have embraced this last position. Apostasy incorporates the view of heresy just summarized, but points to the moment when the presence of heresy is so abundant and radical that individuals are considered to be fully separated from biblical truth, and from Christ as the truth. In that case there is a falling away from the truth and from God’s saving grace. Apostasy is the result of a slow process of spiritual defection from biblical truth.
2. Terminology Associated With Apostasy:The Bible uses many verbs to express the idea of apostasy. Among them, “turn away” (Matt. 24:10), “go out” (1 John 2:19), “forsake” (Deut. 31:16), and “rebel” (Eze. 2:3). The Hebrew term closest to our term “apostasy” is meshûbah. It is based on the verb shûb, which means “to turn.” This verb is used, on one hand, to express the idea of repentance as a “turning” or “re-turning” to the Lord. On the other hand a person who “turns away” from the Lord commits meshûbah, apostasy. Apostasy could be the result of accepting the spurious beliefs of false teachers (1 Tim. 4:1) or going back to the corrupting lifestyle of the world (2 Peter 2:20-22). It could also be the result of persecution (Matt. 24:9, 10), an unbelieving heart (Heb. 3:12), superficial commitment to Christ (1 John 2:19), and not paying attention to God’s Word (Heb. 2:1).
3. Manifestations of Apostasy: When associated with heresy, apostasy is a visible rejection of truth. The Bible emphasizes two of its most common expressions. The first is the practice of false worship (Jer. 3:6). The true God is rejected or worshipped in the style of a pagan god. This was a common expression of apostasy in the Old Testament and was considered a violation of the covenant. The prevailing Canaanite religion exerted a powerful influence upon many Israelites, and this led to separation from the Lord. For the Lord this was a case of spiritual marital unfaithfulness resulting in permanent separation (Jer. 3:6-8).
The second expression of apostasy was relying for preservation on the political power of other nations, thus, denying the power of God for salvation (e.g., Hosea 8:9). In doing this, the nation was “forsaking the Lord,” acting wickedly, going back to the slavery of Egypt, and turning against Him (Jer. 2:17-19). In both cases God was abandoned and new powers were embraced by His people. Surprisingly, most probably through self-deception, they still believed they were being loyal to the Lord (e.g., Jer. 3:23, 24). These are probably two of the most deceptive and disastrous expressions of apostasy. It promotes falsehood in the name of the Lord, and consequently many are deceived.
Although apostasy will increase in the Christian world (2 Thess. 2:3), through the power of the Lamb we can remain loyal to Him.
QUESTION: Why did God order Hosea to marry a prostitute?
By Angel Manuel Rodríguez
The marriage of Hosea is problematic for some who find it difficult to accept that God would order Hosea to marry a prostitute. Whether that was the case or not remains to be seen, but the truth is that his experience as a prophet was rather unusual. We need to place Hosea within his time and context in order to gain a better understanding of his ministry.
1. Historical Background: Hosea ministered primarily to the northern kingdom toward the end of the divided monarchy. The superscription of the book provides the time for his ministry: during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (785-745 B.C.). Hosea was active until shortly before the destruction of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. In order to preserve the political unity of the northern kingdom, two sanctuaries were built, one in Bethel and another in Dan. At the center of worship were two golden images in the form of calves, perhaps as substitutes for the cherubs on the ark of the covenant located in the temple of Jerusalem in the southern kingdom of Judah. Such action contributed to the spiritual deterioration of the people of Israel.
By the time of Hosea Israel was going through a difficult political and religious period. Political intrigue was intense. During the last 24 years of the kingdom six different kings had taken the throne by force. Worship of the Lord was corrupted and the people worshipped Him using the worship of Baal as their model. Baal became the god of Israel, the god of fertility, worshipped on high places and in forests in an attempt to manipulate him and ensure the fertility of the land, the animals, and the family. Social, political, and religious degradation prevailed throughout the land (4:2, 13).
2. Marriage and Experience of Hosea: The Lord said to the prophet, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife” (1:2).* The most natural reading of the story indicates we are dealing with a real, not symbolic, event in the life of the prophet. The phrase “adulterous wife/woman” could refer either to what she would later become or to a description of her ancestry. A literal translation of the phrase is “wife of promiscuity,” that is to say a woman with lax moral values (the Hebrew noun zonah, could refer to adultery, fornication, or prostitution).
Hosea married Gomer, and had three children with her (two of which may not have been his; 2:4, 5). The children’s names illustrated God’s plans for His people (1:4-8). At some point in the marriage, Gomer committed adultery and abandoned her family. The prophet’s anguish is vividly portrayed in chapter 2. He threatened her with divorce, went through feelings of rejection projected on his children, and finally reconciled himself with the rejection. Then the Lord ordered him to go and show his love to his wife and bring her home (3:1). He did.
3. Experience of the Lord: The deep pain in God’s heart due to the spiritual adultery of His people, as well as to the moral depravation of their new syncretistic religion, was incarnated in the experience of the prophet. God was in pain and He wanted His people to know it! After ordering Hosea to bring back his adulterous wife, He added, “Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods” (3:1). The love triangle present in the life of the prophet is also a reality in the experience of God with Israel.
God portrays Himself as a loving, rejected husband in deep emotional pain. Since He wants His wife back, the Lord will cut off her way to the idols (2:6), and take her back to the desert (2:14). There, God will enamor her again (2:14): “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely” (14:4). The inner divine struggle is beautifully expressed in chapter 11:8, 9. God was ready to divorce His people, but then He exclaims: “How can I give you up?” The conversion awaited from Israel (11:7a) now takes place in Yahweh. The judgment against His wife is overthrown in the divine heart. There is a future for His people. This is divine love, illustrated in the experience of the prophet.
*Bible texts in this article are taken from the New International Version (NIV).
QUESTION: What did Paul mean when he wrote: “Women will be saved through childbearing” (1 Tim. 2:15, NIV)?
As I often say, some passages lend themselves to different interpretations. In those cases we have to examine the immediate context, as well as the general biblical context, and offer what we consider the best option without being dogmatic. I assume that what many find disturbing is that this text seems to suggest that salvation is not by faith, and that it reveals a restrictive view of women (e.g., their place is at home rearing children).
1. Comments on Terminology: Notice these three terms. The first one is the verb “to save” (Greek, sozo), used in the Pastoral Epistles (1, 2 Timothy and Titus) to refer to the spiritual salvation effected by God through Jesus (e.g., 1 Tim. 1:15; 2:4; 2 Tim. 1:9). This salvation is always appropriated by faith. The second term is the preposition “through” (Greek dia). It appears to introduce the means of salvation, as, for instance, in 1 Corinthians 15:2. The third term is the noun “childbearing” (Greek teknogonia), whose verbal form means “to bear children,” and implies the pain that accompanies it (1 Tim. 5:14).
2. Variety of Interpretations: Those words are interpreted in different ways. The verb “to save” is taken by some to mean “to keep safe/preserve,” in the sense that the woman’s life will be preserved during childbirth. This is hardly defensible since Christian women have died during childbirth.
Others introduce ideas not found in the text. The noun “childbearing” has been taken as designating the birth of the Messiah. Women will be saved through the birth of the Child promised to Eve. But this, although possible, goes far beyond the text itself.
Many retain the traditional reading (“women will be saved through childbearing”) but interpret the preposition “through” in different ways. One of them is that women are saved “despite bearing children with pain” (i.e., childbearing is the accompanying circumstance of salvation, not the means), or that they will be saved by virtue of fulfilling their role as mothers.
3.Contextual Considerations: In 1 Timothy 2:11-14 Paul instructs women concerning proper attitudes during instruction in church. These learning experiences should take place free from divisiveness and in submission to the teacher. This counsel was needed because false teachers were using women to promote their teachings. Paul wants women to learn and not act independently of others. He illustrates the situation using the experience of Adam and Eve. Eve acted independently of Adam in her search for knowledge; and as a result fell into sin and became an instrument of the enemy. Paul does not want this to happen in the church. He wants women to experience salvation and to persevere in it.
4.Suggested Interpretation: Why is childbearing mentioned, and to what is it referring? First, notice that the subject of the verb is singular—“She will be saved.” In context the reference is to Eve as a representative of female members of the church. Second, childbirth seems to allude to Eve’s experience after the fall. The Lord said to her that she was going to have “pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children” (Gen. 3:16, NIV). This was one of the results of her fall. It would also appear that false teachers discouraged marriage and procreation and Paul seems to be opposing them (cf. 1 Tim. 4:3). Third, if that reading of the text is correct, it would be better to take the preposition “through” to mean “despite,” describing the circumstances under which salvation takes place (cf. 1 Cor. 3:15). The woman will be saved despite the fact that she continues to experience pain in childbearing—a reminder of her sin. That salvation is not through childbearing is indicated by the use of the passive verb (“she will be saved”), implying that God is the One who saves (the implied subject of the action). Fourth, the last part of the verse states that “they” will be saved “if they continue [persevere] in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (2:15b, NIV).
Salvation requires perseverance, not childbearing. The memory of our fallenness should not disturb our certainty of salvation, but should motivate us to faith, love, and holiness.
QUESTION: Please explain 2 Peter 2:4 (NIV): “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment …”
In this connection we should also consider a similar passage in Jude 6 (NIV): “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” Let’s examine the context, discuss the nature of the prison, and comment on the sin of the angels.
1. Context: Peter is discussing the work of false teachers. According to him, their presence among God’s people is not new (2 Peter 2:1). One thing is certain, however: they will experience the judgment of God. To support his argument, Peter uses three biblical examples of sin leading to judgment: the experience of the an-gels, the punishment of the antediluvians, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The context in Jude is similar. He also deals with false teachers, and his three examples of divine judgment are: the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness, the fall of the angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah. These cases show that God will intervene against false teachers. These passages are not specifically about the nature of the sin of angels, or about the place they are sent.
2. The Prison: Peter uses vivid language to describe the fate of evil angels. God “sent them to hell, putting them in gloomy dungeons.” In the Bible “hell” is the realm of the dead, the tomb. The common Greek word for “hell” is hades, which designates the place of the dead, the underworld. But in this case Peter uses a different word, a verb: tartaroo, “to cast into/to hold captive in tartaros.” In Greek mythology tartaros designated the deepest area of hades, reserved for the punishment of disobedient gods. Peter uses this image to express the idea that fallen angels are now in prisons of darkness and death, separated from the divine source of life. This is not a literal prison, because demons are still active in the world of humans (e.g., 1 Peter 5:8; Jude 9).
This is supported by Jude, who simply says they are chained and imprisoned in darkness. By the way, the phrase “gloomy dungeons” in Peter is sometimes rendered in Greek manuscripts as “fetters of darkness.” In the ancient world, prisons were in many cases dark dungeons, an appropriate symbol for the tomb (cf. Rev. 1:18). Apparently, ancient prisons did not have the purpose of incarcerating criminals as a form of punishment. Those in jail were often committed to hard labor. But in most cases, the prisoners were awaiting judgment or the execution of the penalty already pronounced against them (cf. Lev. 24:10-12; Num. 15:32-36). According to Peter, fallen angels are incarcerated in spiritual darkness, in the realm of death, awaiting the execution of their sentence. They have already been judged.
3. The Sin: Neither Peter nor Jude tells us the nature of the sin of the angels. According to Jude, the angels “did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home.” The fall of the angels from heaven is described as abandoning their appointed roles in heaven, their original home. The common view among scholars is that Jude used Genesis 6:1-4, as interpreted by Jewish intertestamental literature, to refer to the fall of the angels when they abandoned heaven and had sexual relations with women. They argue that the context in Jude is about sins of immorality. That interpretation hardly fits the context of Peter. Although one cannot totally rule out that possibility for Jude, it is always better to go with the witness of Scripture itself and avoid speculation. The idea expressed in both passages seems to fit Isaiah 14 better, where the fall of Lucifer is narrated: “You are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit” (verse 15, NIV); as well as Revelation 12:1-4, 7-9, where the casting out of the angels is preceded by a war in heaven.
To conclude: The final fate of evil angels is fixed. Meanwhile, beware of false teachers in your church, and beware of their greed (2 Peter 2:2)!
QUESTION: Why was Ham so severely punished for seeing his father naked (Gen. 9:18-27)?
The biblical passage you refer to has been interpreted in different ways, suggesting that it is indeed a difficult one. The main problem is defining the sin of Ham—what does the phrase he “saw his father’s nakedness” mean? The second problem is the severity of the punishment itself. Before I address these questions, let me summarize the different interpretations of the passage.
1. Inappropriate Sexual Act: Many interpreters have argued that this narrative is about Ham’s sexual misconduct. This is based on the phrases “to see his father’s nakedness,” “to uncover the nakedness of” someone. These same phrases are employed in Leviticus 20:17 (NASB) to designate sexual intercourse. So, some suggest that this is a case of paternal incest (homosexuality). Others have suggested that since the phrase “to see the father’s nakedness” could mean to have a sexual relationship with the father’s wife (cf. Lev. 18:14), Ham violated Noah’s wife.
Still others have argued that Ham castrated his father. This is based on the fact that the Bible describes what Ham did as “what his youngest son had done to him” and that nothing else is said about Noah having more children. These suggestions, however, ignore or explain away the immediate context of the story.
2. Contextual and Linguistic Considerations:What is occasionally overlooked is that the phrase “to uncover the nakedness” is not found in Genesis 9:18-27. What we find is a drunken Noah who, before falling unconscious, removed his clothes and was lying “uncovered inside his tent” (verse 21, NIV). According to Hebrew lexicons, the verb galah in this particular case means “to expose oneself.” Nothing in the context suggests that Ham uncovered his father. Therefore, that phrase should not be imported into the story to clarify Ham’s sin. This makes highly unlikely the suggestion of incest.
Second, the meaning of the phrase “to see the nakedness” should be determined by its immediate context. In Leviticus it designates heterosexual intercourse, never homosexual relations. This rules out the suggestion that Ham violated his father.
Third, in the narrative the verb “to see” is understood in a literal sense. We are told that Noah uncovered himself and Ham saw him. We are also told that his two brothers took precautions to avoid seeing their father naked. They “took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness” (verse 23, NIV). The text even adds, “their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.” It is impossible to argue that the verb “to see” is used here figuratively. The brothers did all they could to avoid seeing what Ham had seen. This is the plain sense of the text, and it does not support any other interpretation.
3. The Sin of Ham: In the ancient Near East this would have been a serious matter. The obvious question is Why? In the case of Ham, the problem was not what he saw, but that he told others about it. These two actions, even if the first one may have been accidental (though the verb ra’ah, “to see,” could mean “to inspect, to look at”; [Gen. 11:5; Num. 21:8; cf. Gen. 6:2]), showed great disrespect for Noah and constituted a violation of the commandment to honor one’s parents. The narrative suggests that Ham dishonored and disgraced his father. The curse pronounced was an invocation to God, a request for justice. It was not intended to fix the fate of Canaan; but Ham’s son became the object of the curse, thus implying similarity of character. The head of the family was punished through communal responsibility based on family solidarity.
The narrative may sound somewhat strange, but it tells us something about family responsibilities and the need to avoid conflicts that may result in pain for parents, children, and even descendents.
The story also points to the need to be vigilant; because what takes place in the family as a social nucleus will have a negative or positive impact even on the nation. A family united in love and service to God and others will fulfill God’s intended purpose for it.
QUESTION: Is it true that some Adventist scientists and theologians no longer believe that God created everything in six literal days?
The short answer is, “Yes, it is true.” In your letter you also asked why this is the case. I cannot go into all the details, but I will give you some of the main reasons behind their views. Let me make clear that the number of Adventist theologians embracing some type of evolutionary model is very small. I suspect that the same applies to scientists. Among theologians the fundamental issue relates to the proper methodology of interpreting the Bible. Their reading of Genesis 1-11 is based on a particular understanding of revelation and inspiration.
1. Revelation and Inspiration: Adventists believe that the Bible is its own interpreter. This is based on the conviction that the ultimate author is God; that since there is one Author, there is a fundamental unity in the Bible’s message; and that a passage is to be in-terpreted in its literal sense unless the context points in a different direction. Those who promote some form of evolutionism within the church have rejected or questioned most of those principles. In the area of revelation and inspiration they overemphasize thought-inspiration—that God only reveals thoughts and ideas to the prophets. This idea, taken to extreme, limits the authority of the Bible. With respect to Genesis 1 and 2, this means—to them—that God did not reveal to the biblical writer how He created. For them the question is What was the idea or thought God revealed to the prophet? They answer: God was revealing that He was the Creator. Since the text, they say, does not define how He created, the answer to that question could be evolution. Instead of allowing the Bible to interpret itself, which in this case would mean that God is the Creator because He created everything in six days, they arbitrarily conclude that it does not answer the how question. One could even suggest that they first accept evolution as a concept and then reinterpret the text to make it fit their previous conclusions.
2. Assumptions Brought to the Text: Those theologians use nonbiblical materials to determine the meaning of the biblical text. They argue that the biblical creation narrative should not be interpreted literally because this type of literature was common in the ancient Near East, where this literature served to convey the idea that a particular god was the supreme creator. That argument is then applied to Genesis 1 and 2. But the creation narratives of the ancient Near East hardly describe a particular god creating everything. In fact, scholars now consider one of the longest of those narratives to be a propaganda story meant to justify the supreme role of one god over the other gods, not a creation narrative.
Besides, Genesis 1 and 2 are unique in the ancient Near East. None of the ancient texts come close to it in terms of narrative style, organization, and theological depth. In Genesis we seem to have a witness describing what he saw. This uniqueness places it in a different category, the category of biblical revelation. Some of these scholars have concluded that the explanatory force of natural evolution was sufficient to establish its reliability. Now “science” is used to define Christian theology and doctrine.
3. Your Concern: Space does not allow me to say more about the tragedy of Adventists who are evolutionists. But I do want to address the concern expressed in your communication about what Adventist parents should do in this situation. I agree that having teachers in our colleges and universities arguing and supporting the idea that natural evolution is the best alternative for the understanding of origins is outrageous. They not only violate the meaning of the biblical text, but also violate the trust the church placed in them by calling them to teach our young people.
Your alternatives are few. Remember, you are paying for your children to obtain an Adventist education; and if the school is not providing what you’re paying for, you have to make a decision. This is what I suggest: Visit our colleges and talk to the teachers about their views on natural evolution and their interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. If you are unsatisfied with their answers, discourage your son or daughter from attending that school. Most teachers in other Adventist schools stand by what the Bible teaches. You may also want to inform the school’s administration about your findings.
Many specialists believe that schools began to appear in Israel after the exile of Judah. Others argue that there were schools before the exile. The reason for the discrepancy is that biblical data on the topic is unclear. We are forced to deal with inferences and circumstantial evidence. I will begin with a general description of schools in the ancient Near East, followed by a brief examination of biblical evidence.
1. Schools in the Ancient Near East:We begin with what is accepted as historical fact: namely, there were schools in Mesopotamia and Egypt long before there was an Israelite. One could easily argue that Moses attended those schools. It has been suggested that in Egypt there were temple, court, and military schools that provided professional and technical training needed from those who would work in those places. Much emphasis was placed on learning to write, a task that took several years due to the complexity of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Those who attended the schools were primarily male children of upper class Egyptians. The Pharaohs’ daughters attended some of the schools.
The school system in Mesopotamia flourished around 2500 B.C. for students from wealthy families. While some evidence indicates that in Egypt the teaching took place inside buildings, in Mesopotamia the courtyard was the main location. Students sat on pieces of cloth spread on the ground with small piles of sand in front of each student to practice writing. Years of training were required to learn the hundreds of signs of the Sumerian and Akkadian script. The schools trained temple personnel and young people to work at the royal court and as military leaders. They learned languages, music, divination, math, algebra, astrology, and other matters related to the well-being of the country.
2. Schools in Israel: The education of children in Israel rested primarily on the parents. They were responsible for basic religious instructions (e.g., Deut. 6:4-9, 20-25). Professional instruction was the responsibility of the father, who taught his son his own professional skills. Because the Hebrew alphabet consisted of 22 consonants, it was relatively easy to teach and to learn to read and write. This would suggest that literacy in Israel might have been a little better than in Egypt and Mesopotamia (cf., Josh. 18:9; Deut. 24:1). Acrostics were used in order to facilitate the memorization of the alphabet. The poem of the virtuous woman (Prov. 31:10-21) is an acrostic and contains the basic skills expected from women in Israel. These included household administration, horticulture, weaving, design, and child rearing. This training could have taken place at home or at a school.
Several arguments support the existence of schools in Israel. First, the fact that schools were common in other nations of the ancient Near East would make it likely that there would also be schools in Israel. Second, there was a need to instruct Levites and priests on matters related to the Temple, such as types of sacrifices (Lev. 1–5), distinctions between clean and unclean (Lev. 15), rituals (e.g., Lev. 16), festivals (Lev. 23), etc. Third, young people needed training to work in administrative positions and as counselors to the kings. These positions required not only literacy but also learning foreign languages, development of military strategies, making weapons, and training in their use, etc. Fourth, there was a constant need for scribes to serve the people in general and also to work for the king in drafting official legal documents, recording the chronicles of the kingdom, and preserving the religious books that we find in the Bible. These schools would have satisfied the religious and administrative needs of the people and the palace. The so-called “schools of the prophets” most probably served those purposes (cf., 2 Kings 2:3; 6:1).
3. God as the Teacher: There was a strong conviction in the nation that the true teacher of Israel was the Lord (e.g., Isa. 2:3). In that case, every teacher was an instrument of God in the formation of the character of the students and in the development of the knowledge and skills they needed to serve the Lord, the people, and the kingdom.
Should we not continue to expect the Lord to teach our young people through dedicated, consecrated teachers? Of course we should!
QUESTION: What is the meaning of the phrase “patient endurance” in Revelation 14:12 (NIV)?
Ilike this question. It deals with the Christian life and how one should live, rather than with interesting details that usually do not have a significant impact on our relationship with God. Those of us who enjoy studying the Bible should try to understand as much as we can about the content and message of the Bible. But if that study does not make us better Christians we’re wasting our time. So, what does “patient endurance” mean?
1. Meaning of the Term: The Greek term translated “patient endurance” is hupomone, which expresses the
idea of holding out or bearing up under difficult circumstances. It could be translated “perseverance,” “patience,” or “expectation.” In Greek literature it ref-erred to an attitude of agg- ressive and defiant perse- verance when facing diffi- culties or misfortunes. It revealed an individual’s cou- rage, endurance, and will-ingness to suffer. Those ideas expressed well the root meaning of the term, hupo (“under”) and meno (“to remain”), that is to say “remaining under” pressure without giving up.
In the Bible a new dimension of meaning is added. The Greek translation of the Old Testament used that term to translate some of the Hebrew words for “hope.” Hence, it added to the Greek term the idea of expectation, of waiting (e.g., Jer. 14:8; Ps. 71:5). This hope was considered to come from God, the hope of His people. The Greek term expressed not only endurance and perseverance under pressure but also the ground for that perseverance, namely trust and hope in God, who can deliver His people from threatening situations that bring anguish to the soul.
2. Use of Hupomone in Revelation: The noun hupomone is used seven times in the book of Revelation (seven is a recurring common number in the book). It designates the correct response of God’s people when their faith is threatened. In Revelation 1:9 it designates the experience of John and the churches to which he was writing. They were coparticipants in suffering, in the kingdom, and in “patient endurance.” In union with Christ they courageously endured suffering or affliction as they waited for God’s kingdom.
To the church of Ephesus, Jesus said, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance” (Rev. 2:2, NIV). The deeds are defined as hard work and endurance. The context indicates that in this case “perseverance” refers to oppression caused by internal doctrinal attacks. In Revelation 2:3 hupomone is used to describe the response of believers to the attacks of false teachers. Although experiencing oppression, they persevered in their faith at all cost. The same usage is found in Revelation 2:19, in which the context suggests that the false teachings of Jezebel threatened the faith of the community, although many of them courageously opposed her. The church of Philadelphia seemed to have faced internal conflicts but the true believers were called by the Lord to endure, knowing that the Lord would deliver them (Rev. 3:10). In Revelation 13:10 the church experiences persecution, but it is reminded that endurance grounded in the conviction that the Lord will return will bring a reversal of fortune.
3.Perseverance and God’s End-Time People: The last passage that employs the term hupomone to designate the end-time people of God describes them as those who have “patient endurance,” keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12). The immediate context (chapters 12–14) makes clear that the capacity to resist, to endure, is necessary because evil powers proclaim a false message, that is, invite people to worship the image of the beast. And because their lives are being threatened, they are under immense pressure (Rev. 13:15). Yet they endure, knowing that they can rely on the Lord for deliverance. This endurance is based on a personal commitment to the Lamb and in the deep conviction that He will deliver them.
In Revelation hupomone is a key characteristic of the remnant who confront persecution, suffering, and deception. Some reading this may now be experiencing oppression and even persecution, some may be struggling with false teachings. The message for all of us is, hold out and remain faithful under pressure, being fully persuaded that you can wait in the Lord.