Miraculous Spiritual Gifts

Do you believe that the miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased or that they continue today?

Answer:

The supernatural spiritual gifts ceased by the end of the apostolic age in the early church. We know this because Paul tells us clearly in Ephesians 2:20:

built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20, ESV)

Paul says that there is an apostolic age, the age of establishing the foundation for the church, upon which we are built today. So, we do not establish the church, but we are built upon this foundation that was laid by the apostles, prophets, and Christ himself. Therefore, the spiritual gifts were tied to the era of establishing the church with regards to the apostolic teachings. Also, the spiritual gifts are related to revelation, God’s revelation about himself. Because of their revelatory nature, they are instruments God used to reveal himself. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says these words in Hebrews 1:1-2:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2, ESV).

God spoke long ago to our fathers through the prophets in dreams and visions and in many ways. But in the last days, he has spoken to us by Christ, by his Son. Christ became the divine incarnation to the revelation, and subsequently, because he is the Word of God, God has spoken to us in the last days in Christ, and by the completion of recording this revelation in Scripture, the revelation has stopped. God does not reveal himself to us in a new revelation, because the revelation was completed by the incarnation of Christ in his person and in his work. Therefore, the supernatural, miraculous spiritual gifts, because they were linked to the revelation, had ceased by the end of recording the revelation in Scripture. We understand that this does not mean that God doesn’t do miracles today or that the Holy Spirit is not working today. On the contrary, God emphasizes the importance of praying for the sick because the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick… Another point I would like to make is that the Holy Spirit has a continuous work, as he renews people and transforms sinners and regenerates them. And this is a very great miracle that the Holy Spirit does every day in the life of sinners. So, I can’t say that miracles have ceased. Miracles still exist; the Holy Spirit still works. But the miraculous gifts exclusively were for the apostolic age.

God’s Patience and Graciousness toward Israel

Why was God so patient and gracious toward Israel in the Old Testament?

Answer:

God was so patient, merciful and gracious towards Israel in the Old Testament because of the covenant God established with his people, whether the Abrahamic covenant or the Mosaic covenant, through which God committed himself to be the Lord for this people and them to be his people. In the context of this covenant, when the people rebelled against God and broke his commands, the Lord was very merciful towards them because of the covenant. He gave them many chances to repent and return to him. There is a significant incident in Exodus 32 when the people made the golden calf and worshiped it. They said:

These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! (Exodus 32:4, ESV).

When the wrath of the Lord burned hot, and he decided to consume them, Moses at that time was with the Lord on the mountain. God wanted to destroy the people, but Moses implored the Lord for his people. Moses said to the Lord:

Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever” (Exodus 32:13, ESV).

Here Moses turned to the covenant, and he reminded the Lord using the covenant he established with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, the outcome of this prayer is in verse 14:

The Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people (Exodus 32:14, ESV).

The Lord decided to neither consume nor destroy the people because of Moses’ prayer, because Moses turned to the steadfast love of the Lord, the Lord’s glory among the nations, and reminded the Lord of his covenant.

Supernatural Miracles

Why should we believe that the spectacular, miraculous and revelatory spiritual gifts have ceased?

Answer:

God does supernatural miracles today. But these miracles and the works of the Holy Spirit today aren’t of the same category as that of the apostolic age. The spiritual gifts of the apostolic age … were for the purpose of establishing the church. They also laid the foundation of the apostolic teachings and were the means God used to reveal himself to humans. Miracles today are of a different, special category, and thus are not means for a new revelation. They don’t add a new revelation to that which God has already accomplished in Christ and recorded for us in the Bible… So, the Holy Spirit throughout the ages gave supernatural gifts that had revelatory purposes for establishing the Christian faith, and they ceased by the end of recording the revelation in the Holy Scriptures.

Exile and Restoration Fulfilled in the Continuation of God’s Kingdom

How are Old Testament themes of exile and restoration fulfilled now in the continuation of God’s kingdom?

Answer:

The themes of exile and restoration are fulfilled now in the continuation of God’s kingdom in various ways. First, the theme of exile is fulfilled now through the ministry of the church. The “seed of David according to the flesh” — humanity — is still in bondage to sin. There are still sinners and wicked people who resist submitting to the Lord and obeying him. They live in a state of spiritual exile because of the bondage of sin and the power of sin over them. Also, those who are within the covenant in the church sometimes fall under chastisement or church discipline. This is a form of exile in which a person is deprived of the Lord’s blessings and fellowship with believers because of a certain sin. We still see and experience exile in our lives today in the continuation of God’s kingdom. The theme of restoration is fulfilled in us today because the Holy Spirit is still the guarantor of our inheritance, dwelling in us, leading and guiding us. We still experience God’s blessings in Christ on a daily basis. We still experience the Lord’s protection, care, and victory over our enemies. We walk in the victory which Christ inaugurated on the cross. We still experience this victory on a daily basis by the help of the Holy Spirit in us. Thus, we see the themes of exile and restoration are continuing with us in the continuation of God’s kingdom.

God’s Judgment in Leviticus 26

What does Leviticus 26 teach us about how God’s judgment might be increased when Israel doesn’t repent?

Answer:

Leviticus 26 teaches us many things about God’s patience in bringing divine judgment over the people. To understand God’s patience in this chapter, we have to review quickly the division of this chapter. In verses 1 and 2, there is a request for full obedience to the Lord. Verses 3 through 13 talk about the blessings the Lord promised the people as a result of their obedience to the laws and rules. Verses 14 through 39 list the curses that will be the sanctions for disobedience and rebellion against the Lord. In verses 40 through 45, the Lord offers a way out of judgment through repentance and returning to the Lord. And the last verse, verse 46, is an epilogue. God’s patience is revealed in this chapter in a very clear way. There is a progression in the judgment. For example, verses 14 through 17 tell us that the judgment will come in the form of diseases and defeat from their enemies. Yet, there is always an opportunity for repentance and returning to the Lord. However, if there is no repentance and returning to the Lord, judgment will be multiplied seven times. The term “seven times” is repeated more than once in this chapter — in verses 18 through 21, 23 and 24, and 27 and 28. But there is also an opportunity for repentance and returning to the Lord in verses 40 through 45. So, the Lord offers many opportunities for repentance and returning to him. And there is also a progression in judgment, but with every progression and increase in the severity of judgment, there is always a chance to repent and return to the Lord.

Human Reactions to Predictions

What do we learn about the influence of human reactions to predictions in the story of Jonah?

Answer:

The Lord, in general terms, declares these words in Jeremiah 18:7-10:

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it (Jeremiah 18:7-10).

The Lord here sets a general principle that he could give promises or prophecies of goodness or benevolences to a certain nation. But if this nation does not submit to the Lord and does not live according to his laws and commandments, the Lord will not fulfill the promise or the prophecy he said, and he will not do them good. And on the other hand, if he prophesied to destroy certain people, and this people returned and repented, the prophecy of destruction and devastation would not be fulfilled.

One of the clearest examples for that is Jonah. When Jonah went to Nineveh, the prophecy was, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” in 3:4. We already know from the book of Jonah that the city was not overthrown after the forty days, because a contingent event happened after Jonah said the prophecy. The people repented and returned to the Lord. The prophecy was not fulfilled in Jonah’s days. It was postponed and fulfilled in Nahum’s days, who came and declared the destruction of Nineveh. It was not fulfilled directly in the timeframe or the era Jonah mentioned. Jonah himself told us in 4:2 that he knew that if the people repented, the Lord would be gracious and merciful, forgiving iniquity and transgression. Therefore, Old Testament prophecies have implicit conditions, if not explicit. If the people interacted positively with the prophecy through obedience, the destruction that the prophecy might have indicated would not happen, and vice versa. If the people negatively interacted through rebellion and disobedience, the good that the Lord had previously promised would not happen.

Prophecies are Conditional

Why is it that some prophecies in Scripture don’t come to pass as predicted?

Answer:

Some prophecies in Scripture don’t come to pass as predicted because prophecies are conditional, with either explicit or implicit conditions. So, the response of the people towards these conditions determines the way in which the prophecy is fulfilled. Let’s take an example of explicit conditions. In Isaiah 1:18-20, the prophet says,

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword (Isaiah 1:18-20).

Here, we see very explicit conditions. “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” There will be blessings. But if you refuse, there will be punishment — “you shall be eaten by the sword.” This is an example of a prophecy with conditions based on obedience or disobedience that will bring judgment. We also find an example of implicit conditions in Jeremiah 7:5-7, where the prophet says,

For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever (Jeremiah 7:5-7).

The conditions listed here include not oppressing “the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow.” If these conditions are fulfilled, the promise is to let them dwell in that place, in the land that God gave to their fathers. The implicit condition here is that if they do oppress the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow, if they act on the contrary, the prophecy will not be fulfilled. He will not let them dwell in the land that he promised to their fathers. So, the way the people respond to the explicit and implicit conditions in the prophecies determines the way in which a prophecy will be fulfilled, according to its conditions.

Cows of Bashan in Amos 4

What is the significance of the cows of Bashan in the oracle of judgment from Amos 4?

Answer:

The Bashan region existed to the northeast of the Jordan River and was famous for its fat herds of sheep and cows. The metaphor of “the cows of Bashan” is used many times in the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 22:12 says, “Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me.” The metaphor here is used to describe the enemies that oppressed and harmed the people. In Amos 4:1,

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria. Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, “Bring, that we may drink!” (Amos 4:1).

It is talking here about the women of Samaria who asked their husbands for more prosperity. And they oppressed the poor and crushed the needy. In the history of Israel, when men’s leadership was declining, it was sort of God’s judgment over the people to appoint women or infants over them. “Infants” here refers to immature leadership. We can see an example of this in Isaiah 3:12:

My people — infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them (Isaiah 3:12).

So what happened during the days of Amos was that the women of Samaria mistreated the poor, oppressed the poor and abused the miserable and the needy. Therefore, the prophet described them as the fat cows of Bashan who abused others and asked for more things from their husbands, more wealth and properties, while abusing and oppressing the poor and the weak.

Historical Context of Isaiah 7

How does understanding the historical context help us interpret Isaiah 7?

Answer:

Understanding the historical context of Isaiah 7 and 8 helps us to interpret the text correctly in several ways. The historical context shows that, at that time, Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah, the son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, made a coalition and came to wage war against Judah. At that time Ahaz was the king of Judah. Ahaz was afraid and confused. The reason for this war was that Judah refused to join Syria and Israel in their coalition against Assyria. The Lord comforted Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah and told him not to be afraid of these two kings — Rezin and Pekah — not to fear Syria and Israel. The Lord told him to ask for a sign. Yet, Ahaz refused to ask for a sign. So, the Lord gave him the sign of Immanuel and informed him directly in 7:16,

For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted (Isaiah 7:16).

There is a reference here that Assyria is coming and will lay waste to the land and its two kings, Rezin and Pekah; this is in chapter 7. In chapter 8, the picture gets clearer that the sign the Lord gave to king Ahaz — the sign of Immanuel — was fulfilled in chapter 8 in the birth of Maher-shalal-hash-baz. In 8:4 we read:

For before the boy knows how to cry “My father” or “My mother,” the wealth ofDamascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria (Isaiah 8:4).

Once again, we see that this sign was fulfilled. And the Lord assured Ahaz not to be afraid of Israel and Syria because both would be exiled through the strong Assyrian empire. The Lord was saying to him, “Do not worry! Trust! The Lord is your helper and sustainer.” This is the historical context, which is very important to understand in order to know the details of Isaiah 7 and 8.

Prophets’ Use of Symbolic Actions

Why did prophets sometimes use symbolic actions in their prophecies?

Answer:

Prophets sometimes used symbolic actions in their prophecies to illustrate the Lord’s message to the people in a visual and clear way, without any ambiguity. One of the prophets who used many symbolic actions in the Old Testament is Ezekiel. Let me give some quick examples. For example, in Ezekiel 5:1-4, the Lord commanded Ezekiel to shave his head and beard, to weigh the hair, and to burn part of it in the fire as a sign of the coming destruction and devastation of Jerusalem. In Ezekiel 12:1-7, the Lord commanded Ezekiel to prepare baggage, and to go out in the sight of the people, to walk in front of them while carrying his baggage. This was a sign to tell them to be prepared for the coming exile, to say that, “All of us are going into exile.” In the same chapter, in verse 6, the Lord said to the prophet, “I have made you a sign for the people.” So, through this behavior, he is a clear picture, a sign, and a visual illustration of what the Lord wants to say to the people. Another example is in 24:15-27. Here, the Lord told Ezekiel that he would take away from him the delight of his eyes, his wife. He commanded him not to mourn or weep over his wife! The people were astonished and asked him in verse 19,

Will you not tell us what these things mean for us? (Ezekiel 24:19).

It says twice in the same chapter, in verse 24,

Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign (Ezekiel 24:24).

And verse 27,

You will be a sign to them (Ezekiel 24:27).

So, the symbolic actions that took place in the lives of the prophets were one of the means the Lord used to send his message in the clearest possible way to the people, hoping that the people might repent and return to the Lord.