Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dr. Sam Storm’s Letter to Dr. David Boren Is an Appropriate Response for Concerned Oklahomans

The removal of Kirk Humphreys as a regent for the University of Oklahoma is a very, very serious matter. Frankly, I am shocked at how silent the majority of Oklahomans have been on this issue.

A few, like my friend Dr. Sam Storms, are not being silent.

Below is a letter from Dr. Sam Storms to Dr. David Boren, President of the University of Oklahoma over the removal of Kirk Humphreys. 

The letter was published on Sam’s website and is republished here with permission. ___________________________________

Dear President Boren and the Board of Regents:

My name is Sam Storms and I serve as Senior Pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. I am a 1973 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, as is my wife. My sister and her husband are OU grads, and so too were both my mother and father. Needless to say, we are all “Sooner born and Sooner bred and when we die we’ll be Sooner dead.”

Let me begin by congratulating you on your tremendous success in elevating the academic excellence of the University of Oklahoma to a level heretofore unattained. You have every right to be proud of this accomplishment and I applaud your continuing efforts in this regard.

However, I write this letter deeply grieved by recent actions taken by the Board of Regents regarding Kirk Humphreys. Instead of defending his freedom to articulate his beliefs on a matter of great moral significance in our society, he was vilified, abandoned, and exposed to public ridicule without so much as a word being spoken in his defense. I’m not asking that you agree with his moral convictions concerning homosexual practice but only that you extend to him the same respect and intellectual freedom that you so tenaciously protect on behalf of all others.

Mr. Humphreys is an evangelical Christian who simply articulated the view that has been traditionally embraced for 2,000 years by Christians of virtually all branches. If you have any doubts in this regard, I commend to you the book by S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (B & H Academic, 2016; 402 pages). They provide extensive and irrefutable documentation that the view articulated by Kirk Humphreys is and has been the dominant opinion of Christians throughout our history.

Let me be clear that neither Mr. Humphreys nor I am even remotely suggesting that homosexuality is comparable to pedophilia. His public apology for not speaking with greater clarity on that point must be noted and is to be commended.

I am aware that Mr. Humphreys voluntarily resigned from the Board of Regents, but he would not have done so had this not been the request of you and the other Board members. What this tells me and others is that anyone can serve on the Board and at the University except evangelical Christians. It tells me that every view is permissible and should be granted freedom of expression and protection from discrimination except the view embraced by orthodox, Bible-believing Christians.

You speak much of “inclusion” and showing respect for all views. But apparently this only applies to those who affirm homosexual behavior as morally permissible. Your discriminatory action toward Mr. Humphreys is contrary to everything you have said and done in the past to promote academic freedom at the University. I can’t imagine what other employees of OU and especially faculty members must be thinking. I’m quite certain that they will feel the pressure to conform and will realize that any notion of academic freedom to research and give expression to what they believe is true is a myth.

And what will become of the numerous students at OU who likewise share Mr. Humphreys’ perspective? I suspect that most of them will be intimidated into silence, fearful that any expression of evangelical Christian convictions will result in their being penalized both personally and academically.

Why is Mr. Humphreys not shown the same respect that is shown to the LGBTQ community at OU? Yes, members of that community are deserving of respect, dignity, and must be given equal access to the wonderful educational resources and opportunities that OU exists to provide. Mr. Humphreys himself has voiced whole-hearted agreement with that principle. So why is he the object of exclusion and discrimination when he articulates his personal perspective? Are all evangelical Christians now to believe that their historic, long-standing, biblical convictions are no longer welcome at OU? Why is Mr. Humphreys the target of such remarkable intolerance at a University that purportedly promotes tolerance?

Your actions with regard to Mr. Humphreys indicate to me and countless others that you have capitulated to the pressure of special interest groups in our society. I had hoped that the President (and Board of Regents) of the University I have so dearly loved and supported would have more courage to defend the free speech rights of one of its Regents. By all means, say that you disagree with Mr. Humphreys. If the other Regents concur, then by all means give expression to your opinions. But please extend to him the same rights and freedom you claim for yourself.

My family has held season tickets for OU football since 1947. I, too, am a season-ticket holder. But in view of this deplorable treatment of Mr. Humphreys and suppression of the historic Christian view on human sexuality, I am compelled to cancel my participation. And I will urge others to do likewise.

I suspect that this will have little impact on your decision to grant Mr. Humphreys the same respect and honor that you so vigorously extend to those in the LGBTQ community, but my conscience will not allow me to support in any way a university that practices such inexcusable discrimination and exclusionary behavior toward evangelical Christians. Should the day come when you publicly affirm that evangelical Christians have the same rights and freedom of expression that is extended to people in the LGBTQ community, I will reconsider my actions. But until then I must remain firm in my commitment.

Cordially yours,

Sam Storms, B.A., Th.M., Ph.D.
Senior Pastor
Bridgeway Church
Oklahoma City, OK

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rock Hard Science and Psychology Practiced by Amateurs: OU and Kirk Humphreys Removal

In 1992 the United States Supreme Court issued its controversial majority opinion in the famous prayer case of Lee v. Weisman (1992).

Mr. Weisman of Rhode Island had sued Nathan Bishop Middle School in Providence, Rhode Island because he had to listen to a thoroughly secular prayer during his daughter’s graduation.

The prayer in question was so innocuous in language that it was impossible for the hearers to know if it was a Christian prayer, a Jewish prayer, or a Muslim prayer. But Mr. Weisman complained that the prayer offended him because it violated the "the establishment clause" of the First Amendment which provided that government shall not establish a religion.

A majority of the Supreme Court justices agreed with Mr. Weisman.

In the Court's majority opinion, the justices reasoned that though the prayer had no sectarian content, made no demands on any hearer, and everyone who heard it was free to ignore it, the very fact the prayer was audibly heard in the public square made it "psychological coercion.” 

According to Stanley Fish in his book. How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, the idea that audible prayers equate to psychological coercion was too much for Justice Antony Scalia.

After citing a fellow jurist’s complaint that establishment clause jurisprudence was becoming so byzantine that it was in danger of becoming a form of interior decorating, Justice Scalia fired back this zinger:
"Interior decorating is a rock-hard science compared to psychology practiced by amateurs."
Fast forward 25 years to 2017.
Clay Bennet hugs Kirk Humphreys

University of Oklahoma regent Kirk Humphreys was asked to step down from his position as a regent of the University of Oklahoma because of what he publicly said about homosexuality and morality.

Kirk Humphreys believes that the Bible gives the standard for what is right and wrong. And so, Kirk Humphries views homosexuality as a sin against God.

It's a given that some people will disagree with Kirk Humphreys.

What I find silly is the claim that Kirk Humphreys' words hurt people. People are saying things like:
"His words were far from respectful and hurt many people who heard them."
"Humphreys' harmful words cannot be dismissed without measurable repercussions."
"His words are filled with disgust and hatred and harm the lives of LGBT Oklahomans across the state."

We have a bunch of amateur psychologists in Oklahoma.

Words are the flowers to the root of ideas.

In a free society, one must learn how to walk in the garden of ideas. If a flower is personally odious, you must learn to ignore it and move on without attempting to pull up the root by force because it is not your garden.

The world's garden of ideas is full of flowers of differing varieties, and one person's rose may be offensive to another person's nose.

But ideas don't kill.

It is the desire to oppress or to suppress ideas which becomes the first step toward the removal of people holding to differing viewpoints

Be it fascist dictatorships on the right or brutal communist aristocracies on the left, suppression and oppression are the twin guns of control.

But a free country is free because its people are free to believe differently without fear of removal.

Universities shape future government leaders, and because our universities have lost academic freedom (e.g., "the freedom and ability to hold leadership positions while believing differently"), it will not be long before the country we love loses our freedoms.

Dr. William Banowsky, former President of OU
Less than 40 years ago Dr. William Banowsky, President of Oklahoma University refused to grant university recognition to a gay and lesbian student group at OU called the Gay Peoples' Union. Dr. Banowsky would not allow homosexual clubs to use campus facilities for meetings, receive university funds, or even be part of the official student handbook listing officially recognized sororities, fraternities, or social clubs.

Listen to what Dr. Banowsky told the students and regents of OU in 1978:
"It is my conclusion that granting official institutional license to any campus homosexual organization is not in the best interest, short-term or long-term, to the university."
Whether you agree with Dr. Banowsky or not (and I disagreed with him), within a generation the University of Oklahoma has now reversed itself completely.

Now, a Christian (Kirk Humphreys) who believes what the Bible says about homosexuality cannot serve as a regent of Oklahoma.


Because people are "hurt by Kirk Humphrey's words." 

Psychology being practiced by amateurs.

What harms all Oklahomans is the loss of freedom at the University of Oklahoma.

A person who enjoys a homosexual relationship will not like any person who expresses the belief that homosexuality is unnatural and a sin against God. But for Christians, the Bible teaches in Romans 1:26-28 and I Corinthians 6:9-10 that homosexuality is contrary to God's design and those who continue in it will "not inherit the kingdom of God." 

For homosexuals, the notion that what they enjoy is wrong in God's eyes is incompatible with their way of life and their way of thinking.

Disagreement is part of the world in which we live.

Learn to live with it.

The real problem at the University of Oklahoma is the suppression and oppression of differing ideas, the removal of those who believe differently than the majority, and the support of psychology practiced by amateurs.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Jesus Christ Was Crucified on the Mt. of Olives

I want to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas because Christ is the reason for this season.

Let me explain.

Any casual perusal of the Old Testament reveals that the Hebrew people worshiped God through a very elaborate sacrificial system.

There were the daily national "morning and evening sacrifices." offered by the priests on behalf of the entire Hebrew nation. There were special sacrifices on annual national "holy days" (holidays) which revolved around the seven annual Hebrew festivals. And then there were sacrifices offered by individuals during specific times of need (e.g., "leprosy") as well as after committing specific sins

But there was one special sacrifice offered by the High Priest which was not daily, nor even annual. It was offered whenever the ashes of the previous sacrifice had been depleted through cleansing ceremonies.

This special offering is called the Red Heifer sacrifice.

A heifer is a young female cow which has never given birth to a calf.  A red heifer is an anomaly. Most cows don't have a skin color that is red. The Old Testament Hebrews specifically bred red heifers for this particular sacrifice.

Instructions for the special kind of red heifer to be sacrificed are given in Numbers 19. It was to be a red heifer in the prime of its life, "without blemish," and one that "has never been yoked" (Numbers 19:2).

The red heifer was to be taken "outside the city" (Numbers 19:3). It was to be slain and then "burned with fire" (Numbers 19:5). 

Then "the ashes of the red heifer" were to be gathered (Numbers 19:9). When an Israelite "dies in his tent" (Numbers 19:14) or when a living Israelite "touches a corpse" (Numbers 19:13), the tent and/or the living Israelite were to be deemed "unclean" for seven days (Numbers 19:11). 

A small portion of the ashes of the red heifer which had been sacrificed and burned was to be mixed in a basin filled with "flowing water" (Numbers 19:17), which means water from a living source such as a river or a spring.

Then a branch of hyssop, which is an aromatic herbal plant, would be dipped into the water mixed with the ashes. The ashes of the red heifer with living water would then be sprinkled on the unclean person or tent on both the third day and the seventh day of the week after contact with death.

After this seven-day process of cleansing, the Israelite would be pronounced "clean" and allowed into the assembly and the courtyard of the Temple. 
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7). 
If this ceremony of cleansing with the ashes of the red heifer was not performed on the unclean person, the Israelite would be "defile" the Lord and be "cut off from Israel" (Numbers 19:13).

The Ashes of the Red Heifer kept the nation of Israel clean before the Lord.

It was an important sacrifice.

During the entire Old Testament as well during the time between the Testaments (e.g., the intertestamental time period), there were only nine red heifers sacrificed by the priests of Israel.

Orthodox Jews today believe the Messiah is coming to reinstate the sacrifice of the red heifer by offering the tenth red heifer for Temple worship. Orthodox Jews are already breeding heifers to obtain the unusual red heifer line in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

But I believe our Jewish friends have missed the symbolism of their own religion.

Jesus Christ is the true Red Heifer. He is the final Sacrifice.

Jesus the Anointed One "came to fulfill the Law" (Matthew 5:17-20).

The Red Heifer of the Old Covenant foreshadowed the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died "outside the city" (Hebrews 13:12). It seems quite probable that Jesus died in the exact spot the  Red Heifer was sacrificed because the High Priest could see directly into the Temple from the offering site. The centurion soldier at the crucifixion saw the curtain in the Temple torn (see Matthew 27:54).

Jesus died in the prime of His life (age 33).

Jesus was "without fault or blemish" (I Peter 1:19; John 1:47).

Jesus died that those "unclean" before God might "washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ"  (I Corinthians 6:11II Corinthians 5:21).

Hyssop throughout Scripture is an emblem of faith.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

We live in a day when the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ is often mocked and ridiculed. 

But it seems to me if a person wishes to be pronounced "clean" before the Creator, then one must embrace Jesus as a gift from God (John 3:16) who fulfills the Law for us.

Jesus came to cleanse sinners (Matthew 1:21).

The Apostle Paul wrote:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). 
Paul was not ashamed of the Good News. He never would have said that had there not been some people ashamed of the gospel in his day. 

And in ours.

There is something in the Good News of Jesus Christ that causes people to shrink back in embarrassment and shame. 

What is it about Christianity that causes people to be offended?

The world isn't offended by our worship buildings.

People definitely aren't offended by the good things  Christian organizations do to help the poor.

The world, in general, isn't embarrassed by anything truly Christian, except for one thing.

Blood sacrifice.

Specifically, people seem offended by the truth that Jesus came to shed His blood for sinners, to make sinners who trust Him clean before God.

To believe that God planned from the beginning to give His Son to die, shedding His own blood for the remission of our sins, invites ridicule from others.

The Gospel is offensive.

I don't get it.

Songwriter Andre Crouch wrote a song that describes how I feel:
The blood that Jesus shed for me
Way back on Calvary
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power.
It reaches to the highest mountain
It flows to the lowest valley
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power.
It soothes my doubts and calms my fears
And it dries all my tears
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power.
Peter ignored the offense and shame that Christ's death brings and declared at Pentecost:
"This Jesus, delivered by the determined plan and foreknowledge of God ... is raised up again, putting an end to the agony of death" (Acts 2:23-24). 
The Spirit used Peter's message to bring deliverance to 3,000 people from their bondage to sin and death as Peter proclaimed the truth of Christ's sacrifice for sinners (Acts 2:41). 

But when Stephen later took this same gospel message to the religious leaders they stoned him (Acts 7). 

People in their natural state, even refined religious people, do not wish to hear about the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ. 

We like our religions clean and neat. 

But the gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ died as our Red Heifer. 

God commanded the Hebrews in the Old Covenant to kill the red heifer in order to cleanse them of their defilement, but that ordinance was only a picture and foreshadowing of the Son of God whom the Father in His love for sinners sent for our cleansing (Matthew 1:21). 

The death Jesus died should have been the death we died. The fire that consumes all sin and wickedness, Jesus endured (Matthew 27:46). The death He died, He died for the cleansing and deliverance of sinners  (I Timothy 1:15).

For the prostitute. For the drug addict. For the liar. For the cheat. For the adulterer. For the prideful. For the blasphemer. For the self-righteous. For the bullies. For the selfish. For all sinners who destroy their lives with sin. For the blind who are leading the blind down the road of self-absorbed religiosity.

Jesus is the Red Heifer. 
"He (Jesus) who knew no sin, became sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21
His blood will cleanse the sinner.

The blood of bulls and goats in the Old Covenant could not cleanse the sinner's conscience or put an end to sin that leads to death.

But the blood of Jesus Christ shed at Calvary does this and so much more. 

This is the reason for celebration this Christmas season.
 "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14).
The message of the early apostles of Christ was clear:
"No one is justified by the Law before God, for 'the righteous person will live by faith.' The Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'the one who practices the Law will live (and die) by the commandments.' But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree--in order that in Christ Jesus the blessings of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:12-14). 
The early Hebrew Christians had been steeped in their 'ancestral traditions' of animal sacrifice (Galatians 1:14). 

After the resurrection of Christ, God's people were no longer required to offer the sacrifices.

 Animal sacrifice is over. 

The Righteous Judge had fulfilled the Law for us in His Son. God did not lay aside the Law of sin and death, but rather He fulfilled it in Jesus Christ so "He might be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

The message of blood sacrifice is the message of Christmas.

Jesus came to die. 

Christ's sacrifice brings an at-one-moment (atonement) between sinners and God. The Creator is good to sinners, but it is only because of Jesus' death and the sinners' faith in Christ. 

Jesus is the fulfillment of the red heifer sacrifice, and it is His blood that cleanses us. And it is this message of blood sacrifice which offends so many, but it is the only message that gives hope to the defiled. 

When you join your family in worship this Christmas weekend, you will not be bringing a lamb to be sacrificed, because God has provided the Lamb.

You will not be bringing a red heifer to the altar, for God has given the Red Heifer. 

You will not be shedding blood with your own hands, for God has shed His own blood for us. 

Turn your eye of faith toward the shed blood of Jesus Christ and believe what He has accomplished for sinners. Our conscience is cleansed because we rest in Christ. 

The promise of God's goodness for eternity is ours because we approach God through the merits and sacrifice of His Son. We rejoice in the Father's love because He gave us His Son. Jesus Christ has come, Jesus Christ has died, and Jesus Christ has risen from the grave. 

This is the message of Christmas. 

It may offend some, but the truth of this message draws from us our worship of God. It may be ridiculed by some, but it is adored by us. It may cause some shame, but we echo the words of the Apostle Paul:
 "We are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes."

Friday, December 15, 2017

Did God Command Joshua to Kill the Canaanites?

Richard Dawkins is a well-known atheist from England. Twenty years ago he said, "I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate."

Dawkins believes that there is no God and takes particular aim at the God of the Bible in his best-selling book The God Delusion. He writes the following:
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pesilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
I'll save you the time of having to look up Dawkins' fancy words by succinctly summarizing what he's saying:
"The Old Testament God is a fictional psychopath who delights in hurting, torturing and killing people."
No wonder Richard Dawkins is an atheist. If I believed that's how the Bible reveals God, I'd be an atheist too.

Dawkins and other atheists like to ask the question: "How could a loving God tell Joshua and the Israelites to kill the Canaanites?"  Sadly, even some modern Christian evangelicals ask similar questions.

To many people, the revelation of God's character in the Old Testament is unpalatable, unlikeable, and ultimately unbelievable, not to mention inconsistent with the revelation of Jesus' character in the New Testament.

I want to show you in this post why anyone who says the God of the Old Testament is not a God of love is flat out wrong.

God in the Bible

The Bible tells us God is love (I John 4:8). God doesn't have love; He is love.

God is also immutable (Malachi 3:6). He doesn't change. God is love during the past Old Testament days, these present New Covenant days, and during any future ages that may come.

Everyone delights in reading about the ethics and love of Jesus in the New Testament. But many forget that "in Jesus, all the fulness of the Godhead bodily dwelt" (Colossians 2:9).

When you look at Jesus, you're beholding the invisible and immortal God (John 14:9). "If you've seen Me," Jesus said, "you've seen the Father."

God is the invisible, immortal, and transcendent Creator. That means you'd never see or comprehend God, except when God "condescends" to our level of understanding.

This condescension of God is what theologians call The Incarnation.

God became flesh.

Chili-con-carne is "chili with meat." The Incarnation is the invisible, immortal and transcendent God "putting on meat" or flesh.

God came as a Man.

When Jesus angrily destroyed the money tables of the businessmen who were robbing the poor in His house (the Temple), it was a loving act of God's judgment (see Mark 11:11-19). When Jesus damned a fig tree that was not bearing fruit so that it immediately died, it was a loving act of God's judgment (Matthew 21:18-22). Fig trees are designed by God to bear figs.

God will destroy something when the destruction produces something better, like a better world.

That old barn you tore down, why did you destroy it? Answer: To put something better in its place. When you took your dog to the vet, why did you make the difficult decision to "put the dog down"? Because your dog was cancer-ridden.

The context of an act of destruction is everything.

The wicked are destroyed in fulfillment of God's righteous determination to destroy evil.

God is love.

God displays His love for those He created in His image by "waiting" for their repentance of sin.  But if repentance is not forthcoming, God destroys the unrepentant as a loving act on behalf of His Creation.

This is what happened at the Flood.

Noah proclaimed for decades that God's judgment of destruction was imminent because of the rampant wickedness throughout the world.

But the people did not believe Noah.

So the wicked eventually perished in Noah's day,  even though they'd been warned of God's judgment (II Peter 2:5).

Interestingly, God left the door of the Ark open seven days with Noah's family already inside. One can't help but think that anyone who repented of their sins and stepped into the Ark would have been saved from the coming destruction (see Genesis 7:1-4).

But nobody stepped through that door.

Christ Is the Door

Jesus said, "I am the door; whoever enters in by me shall be saved" (John 10:9).

Just as in the days of Noah when God showed patience, mercy, and love to the wicked people of the world, God displayed love, grace, and mercy to the Canaanite people in Joshua's day before He ultimately destroyed them because of their wickedness and unrepentance.

It cannot be said enough that when God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites it had nothing to do with race, religion, or land

God's command to destroy the Canaanites had everything to do with the wickedness of the Canaanites.

The Canaanites were descendants of Noah’s grandson Canaan.  The term "Canaanites" is used broadly in Scripture to refer to all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, including the Hivites, Girgashites, Jebusites, Amorites, Hittites, and Perizzites (see Judges 1:9–10).

The biblical representation of Canaanite activities is always negative. Whether it was their rampant sexual immorality in the worship of their fertility god Dagon, or their practice of sacrificing their children in burnt offerings to their god Baal or their sun god Chemosh, or their deep and abiding evil behaviors toward others who lived around them, the Canaanite people deserved to be destroyed for the world to be a better place.
"For the wages of  sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
God waited for 400 years for the Canaanites to repent of their sins.

The Canaanites knew the truth. They descended from Noah, the preacher of righteousness. They had heard with their own ears of God and His power. But they rejected God. They loved their sins and rejected the loving Creator who called them to leave their sins (Joshua 5:1). 

Again, God waited for the Canaanites to repent. For centuries, God waited. 

When God called Abraham as His own and promised him the land of Canaan, God told Abraham he and his descendants would have to wait to take possession of the land of Canaan "because the sin of the Canaanites is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:6). 

Destruction was coming to the Canaanites like destruction came to the wicked in the days of Noah, but God waited... and He waited. 

"God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11) declares the Old Testament Scriptures.

But just as a judge without any pleasure sentences a criminal to capital punishment in our day, so the Judge of the Universe decided to destroy the Canaanites in Joshua's day. 

The time had come for the Canaanites to experience the natural consequences for their unrepentant sins.

The time had come for God to destroy the Canaanites. 

Again, sometimes the most loving thing God can do is to destroy the wicked. 

God used the army of Israel to implement the just sentence of Canaanite destruction. Joshua was the instrument of destruction for the Canaanites, but God was the Author of the just sentence of destruction for the Canaanites.

God said to Joshua:
 “I brought you into the land of the Canaanites…and the Canaanites fought with you; and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land when I destroyed them before you” (Joshua 24:8).
There are some Christians who struggle with the portrayal of God in the Old Testament as it relates to the ethics and love of Jesus in the New Testament.

But Jesus tells us exactly the same thing about the final end of the wicked that God told Joshua about the final end of the Canaanites. What will happen to the wicked at the end of days is exactly what happened to the Canaanites in Joshua's day. 
"Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28), 
Those are the loving words of  Jesus.

Listen to Jesus again:
"Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear My voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." (John 5:27-30)
Again, those are the loving words of Jesus. This judgment of the wicked in the resurrection is very similar to the judgment of God in the land of Canaan. There is no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but for the love of His world, God will destroy the unrepentant sinner.

One day the wicked will be raised from the dead to give a detailed account of their sins to Christ. This should terrify the wicked (2 Corinthians 5:11), but just as in the days of Noah and in the days of Joshua, the idea of coming judgment is something to scoff, not something to ponder.

Christ will judge the resurrected wicked for their sins and ultimately sentence each of them to die what the Bible calls "the second death" (Revelation 20:12-15).

The unrepentant at the Judgment will perish with "everlasting destruction" (II Thessalonians 1:9). The Apostle Paul calls it everlasting destruction because there will be no reversal of it through resurrection, as was true of the destruction at the first death.

It is to save sinners from this the punishment of eternal destruction that God in His great love sent His Son.
"For God so loved this world, that He gave us His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have life throughout the ages to come" (John 3:16). 
That's real love.
"Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7-8)
And it is through the repentance of our sins and faith in Person and work of Jesus Christ that we are given by God the priceless gift of immortal life (I Corinthians 15:53-55).

But the unrepentant wicked who die without faith in God's grace through His Son will not be recipients of this stunning gift of immortal life throughout the ages to come. They've never repented of their sins and they've never opened their hearts, minds, and lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The prophet Malachi describes the Day of Judgment in the last chapter of the Old Testament:
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 4:1-3). 
I'm not sure why Christians have a problem with the Bible saying God commanded the destruction of the Canaanites in Joshua's day.  Jesus says the same destruction will occur to all the resurrected wicked on Judgment Day.

The Good News is that anyone who has repented of their sins and embraced Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord will hear God say:
“Your sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17.
The Scriptures Teach Neither Universal Salvation Nor Universal Immortality 

In a reaction to the unbiblical teaching that God eternally torments the wicked rather than destroys them, some Christians have taken to the false teaching of universal salvation. 

Some of these hopeful universalists are friends of mine. 

I've written about Paul Young's hopeful universalism

I've written about C.S. Lewis and George McDonald and their vivid writings on the same subject. 

Now comes an entirely new crop of intelligent evangelicals who write with the belief that God will ultimately save everyone to enjoy His love for the ages to come. 

These modern evangelicals love Jesus. But some, like Pastor Brian Zahnd who recently wrote Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News, seem to embrace their idealized philosophies more than they do the inspired Scriptures. 

Pastor Zahn writes that "the depictions of God in the OT" should be subordinate to the "revelation of God seen in Jesus."

That's the Pastor's philosophy that drives the theme of his book. 

Pastor Zahn believes that God’s wrath in the Old Testament is but a mere metaphor and does not really point to a real and tangible anger from God toward sinners.

The Old Testament, Pastor Zahn writes,  presents God as capricious, malevolent, and vengeful, say these modern evangelicals, a very similar view to that of atheist Richard Dawkins. 

While appreciating my hopeful universalist friends who long to exalt the love of God to the world, I can't accept their philosophy that the God of the Old Testament is not the Jesus of the New Testament.

He is. 

I believe the reason Pastor Zahn and others fight the philosophical battle of pitting wrath against love and the Old Testament God against the New Testament Jesus is because they've never questioned their acceptance of the false and prevalent non-biblical teaching that the wicked are inherently immortal and live forever. 

Christian universalists believe (contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible) that the wicked can never not exist. Because of this, they choose to believe God will one day deliver the unrepentant wicked from their torments by convincing them at some point during the eternal ages of His unconditional love. 

Hopeful universal salvation is much more palatable to these philosophical evangelicals than the false teaching that the wicked will be tormented by God forever and ever for their sins. 

The Bible does nowhere portray the wicked as living forever. 

The wicked perish (Psalm 37:20). 

Pastor Zahn and other evangelicals have reacted to the ancient and false Greek philosophy of inherent immortality by adopting a modern western philosophy that God's love will ultimately rescue everyone, even those who die in a state of unrepentance. This universalism flatly contradicts the clear teachings of Scripture that the wicked will be eternally destroyed.

Pastor Zahn's book does not grapple with the specific biblical texts that state God destroys the wicked (like Psalm 94:23) because, in Pastor Zahn's mind, the wicked are immortal and can't be destroyed.

Though I admire the passion to exalt God's love among my Christian universalist friends, I cannot accept their philosophy.

I too have a passion to exalt the love of God and salvation in Jesus Christ, but my foundation of truth is in the Bible, and not philosophy.

The Bible teaches me that the wicked will perish.

But a loving God has sent us His Son, so that sinners like me, by faith in Christ and repentance of sins, might live forever! (Romans 1:17).

That is indeed Good News.

So, "Did God command Joshua to kill the Canaanites?"


And their destruction is a picture of the Day of Judgment when those resurrected from the dead by the power of Christ will give an account for their sins and afterward experience the same destruction of death, but this time for eternity (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

I once had someone say to me, "everlasting destruction" is "a cup of hope" compared to everlasting and eternal torment.

I responded.
"Any man who calls everlasting destruction a cup of hope is unfamiliar with the rich blessings of eternal life." 
May we always be people who see "the glory of God" in the face of Jesus Christ, who passionately exalt the love of God by sharing the gospel of grace to a fallen world, and who adhere to the inspired and infallible Word of God rather than the errant and misleading philosophies of men. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Politics and Religion Are Always Mixed Regardless: Israel, Kirk Humphreys, and the First Amendment

The old saying "religion and politics ought never mix" is utterly false.

Religion and politics always mix whether we like it or not.

Nobody can help it.

What is supreme in a person's heart is one's religion, be it Deity or dogma. One's supreme belief gives birth to one's politics.

God and government or god and government can never be separated. You always govern with a view toward the supreme.

For example, if a person believes in a Supreme Being who has communicated His will to His creation, then that person's view of government will be based on the Supreme Being and Divine law.

However, if a person does not believe in a personal Supreme Being, that doesn't mean he or she is not religious. Religion, by definition, is "a pursuit or interest of supreme importance." A person's supremely held dogma or philosophy is as much a god as a Supreme Being.

Two people; two religions; two views of government.

The inner worship of one's god drives the open wrangling for one's government.

Religion and politics are always mixed.

As an example, The Founding Fathers believed in a Supreme Being that they called "nature's God." The connection between their belief in a personal God and the government they founded is obvious when you walk the capitol grounds in Washington. The word  “God” (with a capital "G") is engraved in marble or stone everywhere. The Founders sought to obey God's revealed will, which they called "natural law."

Today, many Americans serve a different god. This god is a philosophy of self, lived out with the belief that "my desires, my rights, and my will" are supreme.
If I speak it, it is true. If I desire it; it shall be. If you disagree with me, you blaspheme my god, which is me. 
Religion and politics are always mixed.

Let me prove it.

The Nation of Israel and Jerusalem as the Capital 

Former President Jimmy Carter told me that when he was at the Camp David Peace Accords in 1979 with Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat a heated discussion broke out regarding the modern borders of the nation of Israel. When President Carter asked Menachem Begin where he believed Israel's boundaries should be located, Begin opened a Bible to Genesis 15 and pointed to God's words to Abraham:
"Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river Egypt unto the great river, the river of the Euphrates." (Genesis 15:18). 
Menachem Begin's religious beliefs drove his politics.

Some Americans believe that Israel will give up the Golan Heights and the West Bank through political pressure from the West.

It's not going to happen.

The politics of Israel is driven by their religion. Israelis believe God gave them the land of Israel. 

Likewise, Anwar Sadat, a follower of the Koran, based his political views on Surah 5:21 which states:
"O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah's cause] and [thus] become losers." 
Arabs who live in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria have their politics driven by their religious beliefs. They will never agree to the Jews living in the Holy Land, and they will never acquiesce to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, and they will politic based on their religious beliefs.

But what about American politics? Where will America and our government stand on Israel?

It depends.

It depends on the religious beliefs of the American people who hold the political power.

Kirk Humphries and the University of Oklahoma

Kirk Humphries is the vice-president of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents. He is also a voice on one of Oklahoma's most-watched television political opinion shows, a Sunday morning show called Flashpoint. Kirk is currently in a firestorm over remarks he made about homosexuality.
“Is homosexuality right or wrong?” Mr. Humphreys asked. “It’s not relative. There’s a right and wrong, you just said it. So it’s either right or wrong. If it’s OK, then it’s OK for everybody. Quite frankly, it’s OK for men to sleep with little boys, if it’s OK.”
 Some Oklahomans are asking Mr. Humphries to resign from his positions of leadership. Mr. Humphries is being called "a homophobe," a "bigot," and "a disgrace" to the state of Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma.

The Lost Ogle, a satirical online newspaper in Oklahoma, said of Kirk Humphries:
"(he is) an out-of-touch, inarticulate, conservative theocratic voice..."
The definition of theocratic is "a form of government in which God or a Deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler." 

The Lost Ogle got it right. Kirk Humphries believes the highest lawgiver is God, and he believes the Bible to be the Word of God. The Bible calls homosexuality a sin against God and a barrier to entry into the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9-10).

Of course, those with a different philosophical persuasion who serve another god believe differently. And their religious belief drives their politics of governance.

It shouldn't surprise many that Kirk Humphreys is siding with The Founding Fathers in his views on homosexuality.

I happen to know Kirk Humphries and his family. Kirk and his wife and children are some of the most personable, generous, and compassionate people you'll ever meet.

Kirk is a religious man. His religion is Christianity. He bases his beliefs on what he believes God communicates to him through the Bible.

Those asking Kirk Humphries to resign are just as religious. It's just that their god is different than Kirk Humphries' God. This is an observation, not a condemnation.

Every person serves a Deity or a dogma.

Religion and politics are always mixed.

The First Amendment 
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 
The First Amendment guarantees five things:

1. The government will not establish a particular religion - The Founding Fathers rightly assumed every person is religious. The First Amendment prohibits government resources from supporting a particular religious sect to the exclusion of others.

2. The government will not prohibit the free exercise of a particular religion - The Founding Fathers wanted people to worship freely as they believed, without government interference, as long as such worship did not physically harm other persons or do damage or destruction to other persons' property (e.g., "violate natural law"). Such harm to others or other's property is the very definition of "terrorism." 

3. The government will not abridge the freedom of speech - abridgment, by definition, means "to curtail, shorten, condense, or reduce." In America, a Muslim has the right to speak freely, a Christian has the right to speak freely, an atheist has the right to speak freely, as well as any other person of a particular religious sect, be it a sect that worships a Supreme Deity or a supreme dogma.

4. The government will never take away the right peaceful assembly - The government can't close a house of worship because the government doesn't like the dogma or Deity worshipped. 

5. The government will never punish the person who seeks help or relief from violations of the promised freedoms mentioned above -  a freedom that citizens of countries led by autocratic, dictatorial regimes can only dream of having. 

Religion and politics always mix. 

The First Amendment is a guarantee that your freedoms as an American to believe a certain way, worship a certain way, speak a certain way, and gather a certain way, will never be forcibly removed or threatened with punishment or retaliation by those in authority. 

The Founding Fathers would never have dreamed of the day in America when the religious people most likely to be politically blackballed, threatened or coerced to worship, believe and speak a certain way are those who believe in the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. 

Don't be fooled.

Everyone's religious. 

It's just that one person's god is not another's God.

Which religious belief leads to the best form of civil governance?

That's a question best answered before the fall of any republic.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Patriarchs to Predators -'Now Make Me a Sandwich'

Our country is embroiled in a national sex scandal. Males are being removed from employment, censured publicly, and sometimes even prosecuted for sexual crimes in the workplace.

Women who've been sexually abused by men are speaking out.

Today, TIME Magazine named the #METOO movement Person of the Year

The rampant sexual abuse and objectification of women in the workplace is tragic.

Evangelical pastors and churches bear some of the responsibility. 

The false doctrine called patriarchy, a belief held by many evangelical pastors and churches, is the root that blossoms into the fruit of sexual predation. Patriarchy is the belief that males hold all the power and privilege and females and children are merely property and possessions who must submit to male authority.

Sadly, many evangelical pastors actually teach patriarchy.

These Christian ministers say they believe the Bible, but their views of biblical Christianity are skewed and they unwittingly feed the monster of abuse. These ministers speak of the spiritual authority of males over females, husbands over wives, and male pastors over parishioners - as if the alleged spiritual authority of males is something honorable. 

Dipping patriarchy into the sweetness of spirituality only disguises the deadly poison. 

Years ago I wrote the forward for Jon Zen's book What's Up with Paul and Women. I wrote:
"The viper known as 'the doctrine of male authority' has bitten the church. The toxin emitted by this errant teaching affects the females within our assemblies. It debilitates their God-given gifts, denigrates their Spirit-led ministry, and downplays their role as New Covenant priests. The modern institutional church has misconstrued and misinterpreted Paul's writings on the subject, while at the same time ignoring Jesus's words and life on the same subject."
Jon points out in his book that the church's adherence to the false doctrine of patriarchy has led to the sexual and physical abuse of women in culture and the institutional church.
Since women were seen as "lower beings," husbands were granted the right to correct or chastise their wives. This "gave religious and legal sanction for the absolute control of the 'male mind' over the 'female body,' in the form of physical violence."Thus a perverted theology led to the church's sanctioning of wife-beating. The Council of Toledo in A.D. 400 "decreed that [clergy] had the right to beat their wives more severely than ordinary fellows: 'A husband is bound to chastise his wife moderately, unless he be a [clergy], in which case he may chastise her harder.' A later passage states that 'if wives of clergy transgress their [husbands'] commands, they may beat them, keep them bound in their house and force them to fast but not unto death.'" [What's With Paul & Women, page 56]
Lest one thinks such thinking is relegated to the ancient church, I give you the case of Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey.

On Tuesday, December 5, 2017, the Moore Police Department released video footage of Senator Shortey caught in a hotel room with an underage boy. Senator Shortey has pleaded guilty to federal charges of child prostitution and possession of child pornography.

Senator Shortey is an evangelical Christian. He is a leader at his evangelical church. He is a "committed Christian" who works in volunteer ministry through his church.

When the Senator opened the hotel room door he was wearing a T-Shirt with a verse reference of Ephesians 5:22. 
"Wives submit yourself unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." 
Underneath the textual reference were the words:
"Now make me a sandwich." 
Whether it's the sexual abuse of women or the sexual predation of children, evangelical males who set themselves up as "lord" over others - demanding actions by others to gratify one's sensual or sexual desires - is a false and tragic representation of true Christianity.

The Bible teaches mutual submission and mutual service. Christ gives no Christian any pass for taking advantage of another human being by claiming authority over another person, whether it be spiritual, marital, or patriarchal authority.

Anyone who "lords" over another person is the antitheses of what it means to be a Christian. Listen to Jesus:
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." (Matt. 20:25-27)
It's time for evangelical leaders and churches to awaken to the dangerous and damaging consequences of propagating the false teaching of male patriarchy.

It creates men who demand sex and sandwiches from the objects they possess. 

Monday, December 04, 2017

I'm Marked in Ink with a TAV by the Man in Linen

9:11 has become a symbolic number for the United States.

It's our national emergency number for those in crises. It's the date of the worst terrorist strike on American soil. It's the number people think of when in trouble.

All of us have been in trouble of one kind or another. We've all made mistakes. Some sins are more egregious than others, but there's not one of us without fault.

I became a friend to Sean Sellers before he was executed by the State of Oklahoma. Sean had murdered his own family but had surrendered his life to Christ while on death row. I was there when he was executed.

Rachelle and I have a friendship with a woman who solicited herself on the streets of Dallas for years. She, too, has given her life to Christ. She's now leading a portion of our Celebrate Recovery ministry.

Over the years we've become close to people who've done some really awful things, ruining their lives and the lives of others by their actions.

Life is messy, and we are part of that mess.

But the gospel is Jesus loves sinners.
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst." (I Timothy 1:15)
But I must ask a difficult question. Does Jesus accept all sinners?

I propose that Jesus accepts only those sinners who dial up 9:11.

Ezekiel 9:11 is the Bible's 9:11.
"And, behold, the Man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, "I have done as You have commanded me." (Ezekiel 9:11). 
Allow me to explain why this Bible verse is so important.

Ezekiel 9 records a vision that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel had been captured by the King of Babylon and is now living in exile as a prisoner. The year is 591 B.C. and the Temple in Jerusalem is still standing.

But not for long.

Five years later (586 B.C.) God would use the wicked Babylonian army (e.g., "the Chaldeans") to destroy His Temple and the city of Jerusalem because of the wickedness and sins of the people.

The Glory was departing Jerusalem (see Ezekiel 8).

In Ezekiel's vision, he sees seven men enter the city, "and one Man was in linen with an inkhorn around His waist" (Ezekiel 9:2). An inkhorn was a container full of ink, sometimes the horn of an animal. A feather with a pointed stem would be the natural pen.

The Man in linen was sent by God to "mark with ink" the people in Jerusalem who were "grieving, weeping and in deep sorrow" over the detestable things they'd done (Ezekiel 9:4). The other six men were executioners who were to "destroy by death" those without the mark (Ezekiel 9:5).

God told the six men:
"Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark."
The Seventh Man, the Man in linen with the inkhorn around His waist, is an Old Testament type of Jesus Christ. The Man in linen had a specific mission.
"Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." (Ezekiel 9:4
The people of Jerusalem had done some abominable things. All of them. But there are some who are "grieving, weeping and in deep sorrow" over the detestable things they'd done (Ezekiel 9:4).

Ezekiel 9:11 tells us the Man in linen did as He was commanded, and all those marked with ink were saved from destruction.

God delivers sinners who grieve over sin.

The "mark" that the Man in linen puts on the foreheads of those in mourning translates the Hebrew word TAV (also spelled "taw" or "tau" when transliterated into English). In addition to meaning a "mark," this is the name of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

The TAV is an equal-armed cross + (as in the upper right corner of the diagram to the right). The Man in linen with the "cup of ink" or "inkhorn" (KJV) marked people with a sign in the shape of a cross.

The Man in linen died for those who mourn over their sin.

The only people delivered from destruction via "the mark of the cross" are those who mourn over sin.
"Blessed are they who mourn," Jesus said, "for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).
To be a Christian doesn't mean you've never done anything wrong.


To be a Christian - to be one who is saved from the coming destruction - means you've been marked by the Man in linen with the cross because you mourn over your sins.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Our Inherent Mortality and the Gift of Immortality

Death, by definition, means "the end of life."

If someone dies, he or she lives no longer. The question that has been asked throughout the centuries is this: "If a man dies, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14).

The Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle - all of whom lived hundreds of years prior to the coming of Jesus Christ - believed things contrary to the Hebrew Scriptures. They taught their followers that life never really ends for anyone. For these Greek philosophers, the "soul" or "spirit" within a man is inherently and naturally immortal. Therefore, they declared, the soul exists forever -  even independent of the human body.

To the Greeks, the soul of a man was like the trick birthday candles you tried to blow out as a child. No matter how hard you tried, the candles couldn't go out. For the Greeks,  it was considered impossible for the "soul" of a person not to exist. They simply defined death as the separation of  "the soul" from the body, not the end of life. Socrates explains:
"Is death not the separation of soul and body? When the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and body is released from the soul, what is this but death? (Five Great Dialogues, Classics Club, 1969, p. 93). 
Socrates (c. 470-399 B.C.) and his disciples taught that the soul of a man, once freed from the body at death, is rewarded by the Creator according to the good deeds done on earth or is punished for the bad deeds done on earth.

Socrates postulated his belief in the separation of the soul from the body after Malachi finished penning the last book of the Old Testament. So the belief that souls of human beings are inherently immortal became part of Greek thinking after the close of the Old Testament Hebrew canon.  Grecian King Alexander the Great (356 - 323 B.C.) conquered the known world, so Greek philosophy became part of most civilized cultures in the ancient world.

The Hebrew writers of the Scriptures, contrary to Socrates and the Greek philosophers, taught that death meant the end of life.

There is life after death, but it is only because God raises the dead. This is the teaching of the Bible. In fact, the resurrection from the dead is a central tenet of the Bible.

Jesus explained that the resurrection was taught in the Pentateuch:
"As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living." (Mark 12:25-27). 
God isn't the God of the dead for they cease to exist. He is the God of the living.  At the resurrection, the dead are raised to life. Some of the dead are raised to be judged for the evil things they've done in this life. After their judgment, they will be sentenced to die a second time (Revelation 20:14).

Others are raised from the dead to receive the grace gift of immortal life. 
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes in Him should not perish (e.g. "the second death"), but have everlasting life." (John 3:16
The prophet Daniel spoke of the resurrection:
"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt" (Daniel 12:2). 
Possibly the clearest teaching of the resurrection in the Old Testament is from the typology of the Festival of Firstfruits (see I Corinthians 15:20-23). The Bible is replete with the teaching that life after death only occurs because of the resurrection from the dead.

Many erudite biblical scholars have shown how the resurrection of Christ from the dead and the resurrection of all human beings from the dead is the crux of biblical faith. Death doesn't mean continued life. Death means cessation of life. Resurrection from the dead is the only way life after death occurs.

This truth causes some people to be upset.
"People were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead" (Acts 4:2).
It's easier for most people to believe that nobody ever dies (e.g. "because people are immortal and can't die") than it is to believe people die and that God raises the dead. I heard on the radio today a New Age charlatan who is charging money for a conference where she will "communicate with your dead loved ones" as if your dead loved ones continue to exist in the form of a spirit or ghost.

Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer of songs like Joy to the World, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, and other renowned songs clearly stated his belief that nowhere in Scripture is it taught that "the soul" is inherently and naturally immortal.
"There is not one Place of Scripture that occurs to me, where the word Death, as it was first threatened in the Law of Innocency, necessarily signifies a certain miserable Immortality of the Soul, either to Adam, the actual Sinner, or to his Posterity.... (The Ruine and Recovery of Mankind - p. 228).
Yet even the Hebrew religious leaders in Jesus day had come under the influence of Socrates and the Greek philosophers. The Sadducees, the educated religious elite in Jerusalem, many of whom had been trained in Greek philosophy, scoffed at the resurrection. Why is the resurrection needed, they philosophically pondered, if the essence of a man is the soul of a man, the soul which can never die or cease to exist?
"Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees--religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead." (Luke 20:27 NLT). 
Evangelicalism in our day has some similarities to Sadduceeism in Jesus' day. Though we evangelicals will speak of the resurrection of the dead, and although resurrection from the dead is part of our official confessions, we evangelicals often privately scratch our heads over the concept of resurrection because we've been conditioned to believe that death doesn't mean the cessation of life, only the separation of the soul from the body and the continuation of life.

Resurrection to those who've adopted Greek philosophy seems irrelevant and unneeded.

But Jesus declared:
"Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming  in which all who are in the graves will hear His foice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:28-29 NKJV).
I've actually had Christians say to me, "What's the big deal about the resurrection? Why would those already in heaven need anything else?"

Good question.

Some evangelicals seem unable to grasp that death means "the end of life."

If death means the cessation of life, then if life after death occurs, a resurrection is required.

The Bible teaches that God alone is immortal (I Timothy 6:16). Every living creature that the immortal God creates is therefore inherently mortal. Everyone dies. That includes male and female human beings. We are naturally and inherently mortal beings.

If mankind is to obtain to life eternal, it must be a gift from the immortal God.

Adam and Eve were created as spiritual living beingswith the ability to relate to the invisible, immortal Creator and with other things in God's realm (e.g. "Kingdom things"). Adam's spirituality separated both Adam and Eve - for the Bible calls both the "male and female" Adam (see Genesis 1:27)  - from the animals that God created.

You never see a dog bowing in prayer before eating. Nor do you see a horse with hooves raised to the heavens in worship. Animals are not spiritual like the human race. We relate to the spiritual realm.

Though Adam and Eve were created with the capacity to relate to the God, after their fall in their relationship with God, spirituality died. Adam and their descendants became "dead in their trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) toward God.

Mankind now needs a resurrection of spiritual life to relate to God and the things of God. This is what the Bible calls "the new birth" (John 3:7).

Unless a descendant of Adam is "born again" by the Spirit of God (John 3), that person will be unable to relate to the spiritual.
"For a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishiness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (I Corinthaisn 2:14). 
Don't misunderstand. Spirituality doesn't mean a man is a spirit. Angels are spirits, and contrary to what you hear at funerals, men and women never become angels.

Man is a physical being that is capable of relating to the spiritual realm. To be a spiritual person with the ability to relate to spiritual things requires regeneration from God (e.g. "the re-beginning (generation) of spiritual life").

Human beings are living, breathing creatures (nephesh) with abilities that other living, breathing creatures (nephesh) do not have, for God created humans in His image. When you read the Old Testament and come across the English word “soul" or the phrase "living soul," these words translate the Hebrew word nephesh. The literal meaning of nephesh is “a breathing creature.

Living creatures (nephesh) created by God in Genesis 1 and 2 include both man and animals.

The New Testament Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word nephesh is psuche.  Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words defines psuche as “the essence of life, the act of breathing, taking breath." 

The Bible teaches that God gives life (breath) to every nephesh. At death,  the breath of God returns to Him who gave it and the body goes to dust.  
"When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust." (Psalm 104:29). 
"Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it..." (Isaiah 42:5). 
"The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of God gives me life" (Job 33:4). 
When God made the first man (Adam), the Bible says in Genesis 2:7 that God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living creature (nephesh)."

Again, nephesh is also the Hebrew word also used for animals in Genesis 1.
"And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures (nephesh) according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.' And it was so" (Genesis 1:24)
But animals don't have the ability to relate to the spirit realm or to the things of God. They are not spiritual nephesh, but they are nephesh.

Mankind is different from animals in that God created us "in His image" (Genesis 1:26).

If you are looking for a biblical definition of what it means to be created in the image of God, you won't find one.

However, if you look closely at Genesis 1 you'll see the living creatures (nephesh) that the Bible identifies as animals differ from the living creatures that the Bible calls mankind (nephesh) in two fundamental ways.

God made Adam and Eve with the potential for spirituality (a relationship with God) and the potential for immortality (a life that continues forever). These two potentials seem to reflect God's image (spirituality and immortality).

Adam and Eve lost both qualities for themselves and their posterity in their sin against God.

But the last Adam (Jesus Christ) brings both potentials back into play for the sinful human race.

The immortal God created spiritual nephesh in His image (e,g. Adam and Eve) with the ability to fellowship with Him and with free access to the tree of life (Genesis 2:9), the fruit of which gave Adam and Eve the gift of living forever. As long as they related to their Creator in love, obedience, and submission, they would live forever in relationship with God.

But when Adam and Eve rebelled against their Creator and broke that relationship, God banished them from the Garden and from access to the tree of life. God gave the reason for His banishment:
"Lest Adam stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22). 
The first Adam and all who descend from him are now under the sentence of death. For the wages of sin is the sentence of death (Romans 6:23).

The death of things and all nephesh (e.g., "breathing creatures") other than man is natural, but the death of nephesh (mankind) created in the image of God is contrary to the gift of eternal life God gave promised man contingent upon obedience to Him.

Adam and his descendants have lost the gift of immortality and we all experience mortality (death), for all have sinned. Every human being is born dead spiritually toward God and under the sentence of physical death. Physical death is described by the prophet Ezekiel.
"The soul (nephesh) that sins, it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:20). 
Think carefully. Death is natural (e.g. "a part of nature") for every living creature (nephesh) as well as plants, stars, objects, etc. - but death is unnatural for the nephesh that God made in His image.

Death for mankind is a consequence of the first man's rebellion against God.

The Scripture teaches that there is coming a day when all descendants of Adam will be raised from the dead to either be judged for their sins and die again or to be granted immortal life through the work of the last Adam, Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:42-46).
"This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (II Timothy 1:10). 
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). 
I do not believe the Scriptures teach universal reconciliation but I love my brothers and sisters in Christ who do.

I do not believe the Scriptures teach the wicked will live forever in conscious torment though I love my brothers and sisters in Christ who do.

I believe the Scripture teaches those in Christ are given the gift of immortal life, and those outside of Christ will be judged for their sins and suffer eternal destruction (II Thessalonians 1:9).

Let the prophet Malachi have the last word.
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 4:1-3). 
Sola Scriptura. Sola Gratia. Sole Fide. Solus Christus. Soli Deo Gloria.