April 25, 2019
Children have much to learn. They must learn to walk, talk, share, read, and many more important skills in life. When my daughter was very young, if she was asked a difficult question such as “What’s 6+5”, she would wrinkle her brow in deep thought and say “I can’t know”. Today she is a beautiful young woman and simple math comes easy to her because she studied. In college, she was able to get an A in advanced math because she learned the basic principles of simple math and applied what she learned. Learning God’s word is much the same. When we first come to Jesus we come with little understanding and just can’t know everything. We know that we are a sinner and need Him for salvation, but from there we need to grow and understand that He is God. We need to learn what sin is and ask forgiveness when we miss the mark. As we study we build upon what we’ve learned and then we are able to understand more. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11. Understanding is a process which takes study and a desire to learn. It’s well worth the time you give to it.
Too often a Christian will hold on to confusion about Scripture because he is afraid to learn more. A first-grade student can’t understand Algebra, but if he continues to say “I can’t know” he will never learn. It’s the same for a Christian. When we first come to Christ we come out of a disbelieving world that says “The Bible is full of contradictions” or “The Bible is too complicated to understand”. Non-Christians aren’t led by the Holy Spirit and therefore have no way to understand God’s truth. Christians have an advantage in understanding Scripture. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14. When we accept Christ for salvation we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. When we ask Him for help, He will lead us into an understanding of Scripture that no “natural man” can have. God wants us to understand His word and grow in our faith. Bible study should always begin with prayer. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5. God will never reproach (upbraid) you for asking for help in the understanding of Scripture. You may have to study hard and look at many Scriptures in order to come to an understanding, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will learn. The Bible is one book and what is written in Genesis may be a key to understanding Revelation. The Holy Spirit will lead in your study, so ask Him for help.
A good rule to follow is to look up words in the original languages. Most of us haven’t studied Hebrew and Greek, but there are tools we can use. A good concordance is a valuable tool in understanding what was originally meant. Many people use the King James translation, but the English language has changed over the years. An example is the word “conversation”. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” 1 Peter 1:15. The Greek word “anastrophe”, translated conversation, means “manner of life, conduct, behavior, deportment”. That definition deepens the meaning of that verse. It isn’t the way you talk, but the way you live that matters. This is just one example but there are many. The English word “love” can mean everything from “I love chocolate” to “I love my child”. The love for chocolate cannot compare to the love you have for your children, but it’s all the same word in English. On the other hand, there are many Greek words that are all translated “love”. A concordance will disclose if a verse is talking about brotherly love or Godly love. Your understanding of Scripture will increase as you dig deeper.
Scripture relating to prophecy can be confusing. It takes a lot of study to understand whether a particular prophecy has already been fulfilled or is still future. It gets even more complicated when there is a “near” fulfillment and a “far” fulfillment. A simple example is a prophecy in Isaiah regarding the virgin birth of Christ. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14. Some people say that “virgin” means a young woman. Young women have always given birth so that wouldn’t be much of a sign. The Hebrew word implies a young woman who hasn’t had sexual relations with a man. The “near” fulfillment of that prophecy is said to have happened when a young woman in King Ahaz’s court did give birth and named the child Immanuel. Further study shows that the Gospel of Matthew discloses this was a prophecy of the Virgin Birth of Christ. “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring for a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23. Jesus was born of a virgin and He truly was “God with us”. Don’t be afraid to study prophecy because you can’t know what it means. Had the Jewish leaders studied prophecy they would have recognized their Messiah when He walked among them.
Many prophecies are about Israel. That nation had divided into two nations, the Northern Kingdom called Israel and the Southern Kingdom called Judah. Some prophecy is specific to the Northern Kingdom, some specific to the Southern Kingdom, and some is about the entire nation of Israel. Prophecy about all of Israel and the end times are being fulfilled today. Prophecy can be confusing if it isn’t carefully studied, and many people just don’t take the time to understand. Too often the confusion comes from studying old commentators who had no knowledge of the future. They could only interpret prophecy based upon knowledge of the times in which they lived. Many prophecies speak of Israel as one nation, but until 1948 the Jewish people were dispersed throughout the world. Instead of taking God’s word as truth when prophecy spoke of a future united nation of Israel, many commentators assumed that Christians had replaced Israel. Scripture is clear that God never intended for Israel to be replaced and that Christians have our own place in His plan. When Israel became a nation again the confusion should have been cleared up. When studying prophecy we can know that God always speaks the truth and when human understanding interprets God’s word we have to be cautious. The Book of Daniel contains many prophecies. We can learn from Daniel that there is a time when prophecy will become clear. He was shown what the end of time would be like and wrote what was revealed to him. He didn’t write what he thought God meant, but he wrote what God said. Daniel couldn’t know exactly how the prophecy would be fulfilled but knew it was from God so it had to be true. He was told that people would understand as their knowledge grew. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Daniel 12:4. Knowledge today is increasing as we watch prophecy being fulfilled. If you study Scripture with the understanding we have today, you can know so much more than people who lived 100 years ago because knowledge has increased. Instead of saying “I can’t know” a better attitude is “I can learn”.
The Rapture is another clear teaching in Scripture, yet people are very confused and throw their hands in the air in frustration. The word “rapture” doesn’t appear in the Bible. In truth, no English word occurs in the original manuscripts of Scripture. That’s why the original language must be considered in order to understand more. The Old Testament talks about a man named Enoch. “And Enoch walked with God and was not; for God took him.” Genesis 5:24. The Hebrew word “laqach” is translated “was not” and means to be taken away from or stolen away. Enoch walked with God and was taken away prior to God’s judgment by the Flood of Noah. The writer of Hebrews says Enoch did not see death. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found because God had translated him: for before his translation he had his testimony, that he pleased God.” Hebrews 11:5. Enoch is a “picture” of Christians who will be taken away prior to God’s coming judgment. Paul says that Christians living at the time of the end will be caught up and, like Enoch, won’t see death. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord..” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. The phrase “caught up” is translated from the original Greek word “Harpazō”, which means to snatch out or away…snatched away before God’s judgment. Snatched away like Enoch. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he was responding to some confusion on their part. Paul had been with them only a few weeks and in that time he led a group to accept Christ, established a congregation, and taught deep theological truths, such as the Rapture. Still, they got confused. It’s no different today. A person can attend Sunday services and Bible studies for years but come away ignorant of God’s word and confused. They say “I can’t know” because they aren’t taught to study Scripture and learn the truth found there. Don’t wait for a preacher to teach you. Study Scripture for yourself because you can know.
Understanding God’s word should be very important to Christians. People will ask you questions and you need to have answers, or at least know where to find the answers. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” 1 Peter 3:15. Christians today can find time to watch television for hours or give their time to partying with friends but cannot find time to study Scripture. No wonder they say “I can’t know”.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
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