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What the Bible says about Consequences of sin
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:2-6

Clearly, Eve, like Adam, was instructed and warned. In that regard, both were without excuse. Eve adds the prohibition against touching the fruit, and the context shows she admired its beauty, which is not a sin in itself but reveals her intensifying desire for it even before the serpent makes its sales pitch. The problem became much more critical because she listened to the serpent, apparently making no effort to flee the potentially sinful situation. As the Bible reports, she was clearly deceived, but she was thinking right along with the satanic sales pitch, as the desire to eat and be wise grew within her. All these pressures were edging the pair closer to choosing to sin. In doing so, they reaped the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, experiencing the pains of suffering and death.

Adam was guilty of idolatry and of deliberate sin. God directly curses Adam in Genesis 3:17, charging him, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it,' . . . .” He then lists a series of consequences, which would make life more difficult for him. These, of course, affected Eve as well.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fourteen): A Summary

Genesis 3:4

"You will not surely die."

This little, five-word sentence was Satan the Devil's opening salvo to convince Adam and Eve that they could disregard the commands of God without consequence. It is evident from Eve's reply to his initial question that she understood both God's decree and His reasons for not wanting them to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was the reason, "lest you die," that Satan pounced on with his famous lying contradiction.

What most people do not realize is that Satan has been repeating this mantra ever since, and the vast majority of humanity has bought into it just as readily as our first parents in the Garden. The essence of Satan's lie is, "Go ahead and live as you like. There are no fatal consequences to your actions because you are already immortal." Theologically, this belief is called the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and most Christian churches, both in America and abroad, teach it.

The Bible, however, does not support it.

Even as early as Genesis 2, God tells us that humans can die, and the underlying suggestion is that death can be permanent: "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (verse 17; emphasis ours). An even clearer set of scriptures is found in Ezekiel 18. God says, "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die" (verse 4). Just in case we fail to understand, He repeats Himself in verse 20.

We need to understand this. God says that the wages of sin - that is, what we earn as a result of our ungodly choices in life - is death (Romans 6:23). Yes, this means that we will lose our physical lives. But what about that spiritual component in us, the one Job called the "spirit in man" (Job 32:8)? When we die, says Solomon, it "return[s] to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). But what then?

Jesus says, "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54). But what if a person refuses to sign on to His New Covenant? What happens to the unbeliever and the rebel? He says, "'Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. . . . Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' . . . And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (verses Matthew 25:30, 41, 46).

Notice the difference in His two judgments: The "unprofitable servant," the "cursed," the unrepentant sinner, is thrown into "outer darkness," "everlasting fire," and "everlasting punishment," while the righteous enjoy eternal life. The reward of the saved and the fate of the wicked cannot both be eternal life, meaning that the "everlasting punishment" of the wicked must be eternal death, not eternal life in torment. Otherwise, God cannot be said to be just.

Jude makes an interesting comment in verse 7 of his epistle: "Sodom and Gomorrah . . . are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." The eternal fire that consumed those cities and their people is no longer burning, but its results are eternally valid: Those of Sodom and Gomorrah are still dead! Thus, eternal fire or "everlasting fire" does not mean a fire that never dies or one in which a person is eternally tormented but a fire of which the consequences are eternal. One who dies in the everlasting fire of God's punishment of sinners will be eternally dead! This is what is called the "Lake of Fire" in Revelation 20:15: "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (see also Matthew 13:40-43, 49-50). Similarly, nothingness, the state of death, is aptly described as "outer darkness."

Of this fate, Paul writes in Hebrews 10:26-27, 31: "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. . . . It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." As Jesus Himself says, "Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

The human soul can die. We know it will die once physically (Hebrews 9:27), returning to God for safekeeping until the resurrection from the dead and the judgment (see Revelation 20:12-13). God, however, in His justice and mercy, will permanently destroy the souls of those who reject Him. "This is the second death" (Revelation 20:14), the final, eternal death for the - hopefully - few who choose it over eternal life in God's Kingdom.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Already Immortal?

Genesis 3:7-11

This account of Adam's and Eve's reaction to their sin demonstrates that sin destroys innocence.

Were two people ever more innocent at the beginning of their lives than Adam and Eve? Immediately after sinning, though, they felt shame because of their nakedness, and they doubly showed their guilt by hiding from God. Do the truly innocent have any need to hide? Do the innocent need to feel shame?

Sin leaves a tarnish on a person's mind so that he does not look at life in quite the same way anymore. David expresses how this tarnish affected him in Psalm 40:12, "My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up." Paul later explains, "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15).

A well-known series of scriptures, beginning in Matthew 18:1, touches on innocence and its destruction. It starts with a question from the disciples: "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Jesus replies that unless we become as little children, we will not be in the Kingdom of Heaven. Is not the beauty of their innocence and the harmless vulnerability of little children a major reason why we find them so adorable? They produce no harm, shame, or guilt. But what happens as they become adults? They become sophisticated, worldly, cosmopolitan, cynical, suspicious, sarcastic, prejudiced, self-centered, cool, uninvolved, and many other negative things. They also seem to lose their zest for life. Sin does that.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does

Genesis 3:7-10

Genesis 3:7-10 illustrates how no one is ever quite the same after sinning with knowledge. Notice Adam and Eve's sin occurs after God had instructed them (Genesis 2:16-17). Nobody had to tell them they had done wrong—they knew! Now they looked at things differently than they had before; a sense of wrong rushed in on them immediately. Just moments before, all had been friendly and joyful. All of nature seemed obedient to their every wish, and life was good. Suddenly, however, they felt guilt and fear, and it seemed as if every creature in the Garden had witnessed their act and condemned them. Feeling exposed, they sought to hide, illustrating that separation from the purity of God began immediately. The virtue of their innocence began to lose its luster.

David writes in Psalm 40:11-13:

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me!

Sin creates a sense of estrangement from God, leaving a tarnishing film on a person's mind. Paul reminds Titus, "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15). Sin perverts the mind so that one does not look at life in the same way as before. Jeremiah 6:15 describes a sickening end to repeated sin:

"Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down," says the LORD.

Some children are adorable because we love to see the beauty of their innocence. But what happens on the trip to adulthood? Sin alters the way a person looks at life and the world. With maturity, people become distrustful, sophisticated, competitive, cosmopolitan, cynical, suspicious, sarcastic, prejudiced, self-centered, and uninvolved. It is sin that drives people apart and creates fear.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment

Genesis 3:16

The curse is in two parts, each composed of two parallel clauses. The first part deals with childbearing and the second with marital relations. With two quick strokes God illustrates the bane of women throughout the ages.

On the surface, this verse seems fairly straightforward. However, the word-for-word translation obscures a great deal of its meaning. Because the Hebrew wording includes so much more than the words' literal meanings, both curses give translators fits. They do not want to stray too far from God's exact words, nor do they wish to leave out underlying ideas expounded by Paul in the New Testament. In the end, most choose to translate the passage word for word.

God's pronouncement on Eve stands in stark contrast to the positive tone He had given to childbearing and marriage in earlier chapters. He expresses His command in Genesis 1:28 in glowing terms: "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.'" Likewise, Genesis 2:18, 24 paints a positive picture of a woman's role in marriage:

And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." . . . Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

When sin becomes a factor, however, childbearing and marriage lose their God-intended luster, and if human nature takes its course, pain, suffering, and bitter subjection are inevitable.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)

Genesis 3:24

Not only were Adam and Eve and their progeny separated from God and removed from dwelling with Him in the Garden of Eden, they were also separated from the source of life, the Tree of Life! The tragic results are evident for anyone to see! Throughout the Bible, God simply and clearly expounds upon the results of sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility

Exodus 19:8

At this point, the Israelites wanted to make the covenant and to be married to God. But when the reality hit them—the reality of what it was going to cost them in the conduct of their lives—they no longer wanted it except on their terms. Thus, when food became scarce, they wanted to back out. When water was in short supply, they grumbled. Then what did they do? They started accusing Moses and Aaron and God because, after all, they were their leaders.

Unfortunately, this is what happens in many marriages. Two people start off in love. Then the realities of the marriage begin to arise, and one or both of them are unwilling to make the sacrifices to continue the relationship and grow in unity. They begin to want the marriage on their own terms: "Well, I'll continue this IF...."

There are many examples of the Israelites wanting to back out. So God, in a sense, offered them concessions. He gave them meat for their lust. He caused water to gush out of the rock. He gave them manna. He bent over backward to meet their demands. But later on, when their descendants were in the Land of Promise, they too were unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to make the marriage successful. We know what happened then.

Conclusion: We do not want to repeat the same mistakes that they made. We have to learn to accept and adapt to what God provides, both as individuals, and as a body (i.e., the church).

The hardships of their pilgrimage in the wilderness were a consequence of a choice that they made to enter into the agreement with God. They did not have to agree with it; they could have returned to Egypt right away. Yet, they chose to enter into the agreement, and thus committed themselves to God's leadership. So running out of food and water, being attacked, enduring the sun above and the sand beneath—all those things represent the hardships of their entering into this agreement. They were consequences.

For this reason, before someone is baptized, he is advised to count the cost. The ministry has this responsibility, not to try to stop the person from being baptized, but to help clarify that he will have to bear the consequences of his decision. Neither the ministry nor the candidate for baptism can know all that lies ahead. In principle, he declares himself willing to accept the consequences of his decision, just as Israel agreed to the covenant before knowing every detail of what would come.

The consequences of our choices are all too frequently things that we do not want to consider. In regard to sin, we either ignore the consequences and take our chances, or we simply go into denial that the consequences are a reality that we must deal with. If we are that way, it reveals quite a lack of faith and a great deal of immaturity.

Kids are like this. Children, the immature, often do not think about the consequences of an act. They just do it. They act or react, thinking that parents are "old fogies" because we say, "No, you can't do that." They say, "Why not?" "Because," we often reply. "You can't do it because I'm the parent, and that's good enough." It should be, but kids do not consider their parents' wisdom, honed by years of experience, to be valuable. When they are sixteen years old, they do not consider that what they are doing might affect them when they are 55 or 60 years old. They are just passionate about the things that they do, but they rarely stop to think of consequences.

When we do not stop to consider spiritual consequences of the things that we do, it indicates that we are spiritually immature. God just is not real to us, or we would be taking His Fatherly advice about what to do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part Three)

2 Samuel 12:9-14

King David's excursion into adultery reveals that, regardless of one's state in life, one cannot commit it without damaging relationships any more than murder. II Samuel 12:9-14 describes the cause-and-effect process.

Sin produces two overall effects: First, because of the breach of trust, it creates division between us and God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Second, it produces evil results in the world. Upon true repentance, God's merciful forgiveness cancels out the first. However, the second remains, and the sinner must bear it and - tragically - so must those caught within its web. As a result of David's sin, five people, including four of David's sons, died directly or indirectly: Uriah, the illegitimate baby, Absalom, Amnon, and Adonijah!

But the punishment did not end there. II Samuel 16:20-22 relates another step in the unfolding of this sin's effect:

Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, "Give counsel as to what we should do." And Ahithophel said to Absalom, "Go in to your father's concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; and all Israel will hear that you are abhorred by your father. Then the hands of all who are with you will be strong." So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel.

II Samuel 20:3 adds a final note on this event:

Now David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten women, his concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in seclusion and supported them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.

God prophesied it, and Absalom and Ahithophel used it politically to discredit David and elevate Absalom. It illustrates Absalom's disrespect for his father, which was at least partly rooted in his father's notorious sex life. Did the adultery make the concubines' lives better? "Can a man take fire to his bosom and . . . not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27). No, he cannot. Not only is he burned, but those close to him also suffer because this sin's penalty reaches out to destroy what should be very dear and cherished relationships.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)

Psalm 119:165

Human nature is enmity against God, and it rejects God's law (Romans 8:7). The result is continual warfare with God and between men. No one who breaks God's law as a way of life can have peace, at least not the kind of peace God gives. Jesus says in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you."

The world can produce a level of tranquility from time to time, but it is not the peace of God. When a person sins, it seems as though there is a feeling, a natural fear, that wells up. Even before the sin occurs, one invariably seeks to make sure no one else sees it happen. This does not display a mind at peace. Immediately following a sin, the fear of exposure arises, and the sinner begins justifying, at least to himself, why he has done such a thing. If caught, he justifies himself as Adam and Eve did before God.

In simple terms, God is showing us the consequences of breaking His laws. If one were at peace with God, he would have no need to hide himself. With a clear conscience, he need not lie, justifying and shifting the blame on to others. No one who breaks God's laws can have peace. However, one who loves God's law will not only keep the peace he already has but will add to it as its fruit and reward.

Psalm 119:165 promises another wonderful benefit: Nothing causes those who love God's law to stumble. "To stumble" indicates faltering along the path to the Kingdom of God or even to fall completely away from God. This provides great encouragement and assurance regarding security with God, meaning that we will not be turned aside by the difficulties along the way.

Instead of fear of exposure and a guilty conscience, we will be assured because God's Word says so, as I John 3:18-19 confirms: "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." What a confident life we can live by following God's way!

Another New Testament passage, I John 2:8-11, parallels the psalmist's thought:

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Consider these verses in relation to the meal offering, representing the devoted keeping of the last six commandments. Hating a brother would be breaking those commandments in relation to him. It might involve murdering him, breaking the marriage bond through adultery, stealing from him, lying to or about him, or lusting after him or his possessions.

Verse 10 parallels Psalm 119:165 exactly when it says, "But he who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him." I John 5:3 defines love: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." The New Testament strongly affirms that loving one's brother is keeping God's commandments in relation to him, and this provides us strong assurance and stability along the way.

I John 2:11 then shows that the blindness of darkness envelops the eyes of one who hates his brother, that is, breaks God's commandments in relation to him. This blindness produces stumbling and fighting, and thus he has no peace.

It is particularly disturbing if the brother spoken of in these verses also happens to be one's spouse, father, or mother. Old people today stand a high chance of being shunted off into a convalescent or old-age home, if only for the convenience of the adult children. Is that honoring a parent, or is it in some way contemptuous? Are the children unwilling to make sacrifices even for those who brought them into the world? Will this course of action produce peace? Will it produce a sense of well-being in either party?

John says, "He who loves his brother abides in the light" (verse 10), implying that love produces its own illumination. Illumination is what enables a person to see in the dark. Light contrasts to the darkness, blindness, and ignorance of verse 11, which result in stumbling. Illumination indicates understanding and the ability to produce solutions to relationship problems. The difficult part is laying ourselves out in sacrifice to express love. If we fail to do this, we may never see solutions to our relationship problems.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Five): The Peace Offering, Sacrifice, and Love

Psalm 121:1-8

Once we recognize that the psalmist uses "hills" as an image of a problem to a pilgrim, we easily understand the rest of the psalm as an encouragement to those on a spiritual pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. It certainly does not give the impression that God—at any time—lets His mind wander, unaware of what is happening in His children's lives. Not only is He ever on guard, He is also ready, willing, and able to intervene with strength. He is not a parent distracted by other concerns so that He neglects His children. We can be greatly encouraged that God is always alert to His responsibilities.

Because God is this way, all things work together for our good, even though there are times when we sin and nothing evil appears to have happened to us. Human nature easily deceives itself into thinking it has gotten away with something. This, however, is like saying we can defy the law of gravity, and nothing will happen! God does not let us get away with anything pertaining to His purpose, but He is never overbearing in thoroughly following through.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine

Proverbs 6:27-29

If we tolerate sin, there will be consequences. Society as a whole will certainly decline, and as individuals, we and our children will "be burned."

In America these days, we are checking ourselves unnecessarily and dangerously to tolerate—even facilitate—others' immoral or unethical behaviors. We are too eager to display our permissiveness in face of all we know to be against it, from traditional, biblical morality to plain old common sense.

Perhaps the most easily seen example is this nation's tolerance of homosexuality, a practice thoroughly condemned both by Scripture and—not long ago—by American churches and society in general. Most Americans, though, have chosen to support supposed Constitutional rights and freedoms over real biblical standards, ignoring historical societal decay after the acceptance of homosexuality, as well as obvious public health consequences. They have, in effect, given sodomy a pass despite everything to the contrary.

We also tolerate public theft of the citizenry by our very own government, and many vote to accelerate it every few years! Politicians make long careers out of promising largesse from the local, state, or national treasury, bribing the people with the heavily taxed earnings of their fellow citizens. This national sin—ever-growing entitlements and pork-barrel spending—has landed the United States in a precarious financial position, one that can only grow worse. Counting future guaranteed outlays from Social Security and Medicare, total indebtedness in America is now upwards of $60 trillion! Most Americans are willing to tolerate such fiscal incompetence and indiscretion as long as it works in their favor.

The Western world has made a god out of the concept of tolerance. If nothing else, it has become a chief virtue of modern man, but how is it virtuous to accept destructive behaviors? Would we tolerate sharks in our swimming pools? A little arsenic in our drinking water? Dynamite among our firewood? Do we allow automobile manufacturers to sell us unsafe vehicles? Are we happy to let unlicensed doctors and dentists ply their trades on our bodies? Why, then, are we so eager to tolerate moral and ethical dangers in our society?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Facilitating Lawlessness

Proverbs 14:12

There is only one "end" no matter how many "ways" that man might take. There is an American way, a Japanese way, and a German way. There can be family ways. People can walk all kinds of ways, but there is an end to all of them, and that is "the way of death."

In his ignorance and presumptuousness, mankind has thought that any old way will do. What God wants us to understand is that may be true, but it all depends on what we want to produce at the end. What do we want to produce at the end of our lives? If we want to produce the same things that God wants to produce, then we will walk, conduct our lives, a certain way. And that way, of course, is the way of God.

Thus, in this verse, He is giving us an overview of life. The conclusion He wants us to take from it is that we should have a long-range view of life; He wants us to understand and conduct our lives according to this principle: It is what happens at the end that counts.

Present appearances can be deceiving. There are people who may look good, respectable, discreet, and civil. Then there are others who do not look so credible. Yet, in the end, the ones who are not currently respectable may turn out to be the ones who have eternal life, whereas the ones who appear good and civil may be the ones who end up failing.

If we had looked at Solomon at the beginning of his relationship with God and then at someone thought to be a harlot (like the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with precious oil), on the surface who would we think had the better chance? Present appearances are deceiving. God says to aim for the end. "Seek first the Kingdom of God" is the unspoken directive here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)

Proverbs 14:12

After Jacob's ten sons sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery in Egypt, they spent two decades haunted by an ever-present feeling of guilt. Whenever Egypt was mentioned, they experienced a pang of culpability for what they had done. The English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, poignantly expresses the mood of this menacing memory: “From the body of one guilty deed a thousand ghostly fears and haunting thoughts proceed.”

Most people believe sin occurs only between themselves and some impersonal, arbitrary law made up in former times to keep people from enjoying themselves. The only reason today's youth seem to have been given for moral integrity is “because the church says the Bible tells us so.” For this reason, many waste their time trying to undermine the credibility of Scripture and the authority of the church. If they can overturn them, they reason, they will be free to have all the fun non-Christians supposedly have.

In this progressive culture, people believe that morality changes from age to age and culture to culture. Society decides what is right and wrong. Under this reasoning, sin depends on the circumstances of the moment. Through the media and entertainment, the world promotes quite a different level of moral acceptability than God's standards, illustrating Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

What happens to our sense of sin when God's standards seem no longer to be valid? For an answer, all we need to do is take a look at our global society—its violence, sexual immorality, greed, stealing, and lying resulting in mass deaths, horrible diseases, rampant fraud, massive distrust, and misery. Why is it like this? “Where there is no revelation [divine vision], the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). This is why the standard of right and wrong can only come from one who is perfect—our Creator, the Almighty God.

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 7:14 that God's law is spiritual. The average person, however, considers laws as strictly physical guidelines that were invented to restrict him. But in the widest sense of the word, man's relationship to God, affected by sin, is what constitutes guilt. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and guilt is the result of that separation.

Martin G. Collins
Should We Ignore Our Feelings of Guilt?

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17

Where one might expect righteousness (as in a court), one finds iniquity. But Solomon cautions, "Hang on. God will judge." Another important point to understand is that God's plan seems designed to show men how weak and meaningless they are in the overall scheme of life.

Even injustice and wickedness serve a purpose. Though they are painful for us to deal with, they provide a massive demonstration of our ignorance of our own nature, clearly revealing the overall character of mankind without conversion.

This is a tremendous benefit to the converted because they can always look at the world and ask, "Do I want those results?" If what we see in the world motivates us to fear God and follow the path toward His Kingdom—even though it might be painful, cause us to make a great many sacrifices, or put us under some kind of persecution or tribulation—it is doing a positive work for us if it helps to keep us on the track.

If there were no benefit from it, God would not permit it. If we did not know what evil was, we could not repent. The world shows us, in lurid detail, what evil is. We have the opportunity to evaluate whether or not we want to do the things that have produced this world. Even in the courts, we will see evil, and we see it even in religion. Solomon says we should expect it and not be overly frustrated by it. Instead, we should learn from it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17

How can God be in control when the world contains so much evil? How can God be in control with the evil prospering in their sins and the righteous suffering in their obedience? Does that not seem backward from the way that we would think of God operating things? How should a Christian react to this?

Certainly, Solomon was not the first to ask this question. As much as we might dislike having to deal with this, it is nonetheless a reality. In His wisdom, God chose to deal with humanity in this way, and perhaps most especially, to allow His own children to face these same circumstances.

Solomon was comforted by two godly realities that we should also understand and use. First, he assures us that God will judge. The timing of His judgment is in God's capable hands. Therefore, we must remember that nobody among humanity will get away with the evil that he does. The wages of sin—death—is a reality (Romans 6:23). We cannot allow ourselves to forget that God is judging. It is a continuous process, and in many cases, we simply are not aware of present, unseen penalties that the evil person may already be paying.

Second, human nature naturally thinks that the way God handles things is unfair, a judgment that is the work of the spirit of this world (Ephesians 2:2-3). However, God's perception of timing and judgment is a much broader and more specific picture regarding each person than we can see. We are not walking in others' shoes, nor are we aware of what God is planning for them to experience. Therefore, what we must know and properly utilize is the fact that, in a major way, other people are none of our business. That is God's concern, and He will take care of things in His time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Four): Other Gifts

Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

Do you know of someone who has done everything perfectly? Conversely, do you know of someone whose whole life is one big mistake? Have you ever made mistakes—maybe a lot of them? We have all done stupid things in our lives. Many of us would like to make all our mistakes somehow disappear—or maybe relive certain portions of our lives because of the huge mess we may have made of things.

But that is not possible. God gives us one shot at life, and we have to make the most of it. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." We have one life to live, and then God tallies up the score. He sees how much we have grown from the point at which we started. He sees if we have really changed from a selfish, egotistical, carnal person into an outgoing, loving, spiritual Christian.

Teenagers, however, have a problem: inexperience and lack of knowledge. They have not seen for themselves how bad the world really is. Frankly, many have an attitude against adults, especially their parents. They feel they have all the disadvantages and none of the advantages; that everything is stacked against them; that they will never live up to their parents' expectations; that they are being judged for everything they do.

They often make excuses for doing things they know they should not do. They say, "I'm only 15," as if that justifies anything. They sometimes blame their friends and their influence when they do something wrong. They justify their actions by saying, "It doesn't hurt to try something once." Or, "It must be okay because everyone else is doing it, and it's not hurting them."

Newsflash! Though God does take youth, ignorance, and inexperience into consideration, He still holds a person responsible for everything he does. Age makes no difference. Just because a person is young, God will not excuse him from what he has done wrong or from the sometimes-dire consequences of his sins.

Notice that God does not say: "Okay, young people, I want you to sit in your rooms all day and study your Bibles and pray and fast and meditate. Maybe if you are good little monks, I'll let you take a walk outside for a few minutes—but then it's back to your dreary little room!"

No! He wants teens to have a good time! He says, "Be happy in your youth! Do whatever will bring you good cheer. Do what seems best! But—always remember that you're not only going to have to answer to your parents for what you have decided to do, but you'll have to explain to Me why you acted so rashly and stupidly that you had to go and sin."

Sometimes, young people think God's way of life is dull and boring, but it is definitely not. However, God is less interested in fun than in right and wrong. "Fun" is subjective to each person; one person's fun is another's bore! However, we cannot decide what is right and wrong; God has already decided that for us. So, even a pleasurable experience can be sinful, and that is why fun should not be the main reason we want to do something. The first thing we should determine is whether an activity is right or not.

God Himself wants the best for teenagers. As our ultimate parent, He has written some instructions down just for the youth. Teens can turn to them anytime and know exactly what God wants them to do. Of course, the whole Bible is instruction for all of us, but the book of Proverbs is written especially for young people. Try reading a chapter of that book each day for a month, and notice how many times it says, "My son. . .." That means the passage is addressed specifically to a younger person.

Young people, have fun—but be careful. Think about what you are doing. Try to remember that God is watching and act so as not to disappoint Him. Consider your parents and their feelings and their reputation. Try to think things through. Try to foresee the result of your actions. Then, if you are wise in your choices, you will never have to regret your mistakes. That is worth a lot!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
For Teens Too!

Ezekiel 18:4

The church of God does not accept the Doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul, instead believing God's Word, which says indisputably, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). One of the very first things God taught Adam in the Garden of Eden was the consequence of sin: “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17), a truth the serpent hastened to contradict (Genesis 3:4).

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches in Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna, a symbol of the Lake of Fire (see Revelation 20:11-15)].” Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Humans are mortal, and God must give eternal life; we do not have it inherently (see Romans 2:7; I Corinthians 15:53-54; I Timothy 6:16).

We believe that man indeed has a spirit (Job 32:8), “the breath of the Almighty [that] gives him understanding,” but that it is not his soul. When combined with a human brain, the human spirit allows a person to have the powers of mind. When he dies, the body returns to the dust, but his spirit returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7), who safeguards it as a record of his life.

Solomon also informs us that “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5), and “there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave” (verse 10), meaning that there is no consciousness in death. The person knows nothing, learns nothing, communicates nothing, does nothing—until the resurrection from the dead when God will unite that spirit with a new body, either a spiritual body or another physical body, depending on the resurrection (see Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 5:24-29; I Corinthians 15; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What Happened at En Dor?

Ezekiel 23:5

Israel vigorously pursued relationships with foreign cultures because she thought she saw a way to benefit from them. However, those who prostitute themselves become entangled in a web of greed and deceit that obscures realities essential to a clear understanding of what is really happening. Eventually, though, alienation occurs, as it did with Amnon in his lustful, one-sided relationship with his half-sister, Tamar (II Samuel 13:1-15). But it was too late. The dirty deeds had been done, and the painful penalties began to be exacted.

Like Gomer in Hosea, Israel prostitutes herself before her lovers/idols, who seem to promise much without demanding as much as God seems to require. She is pictured as throwing herself at what she thinks is easy gain—a quick profit without the hard work.

Israel has followed the pagan prostitutes' habits. Hosea saw this and declares in Hosea 9:1, "You have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute" (NIV). Here, clearly stated, is cause and effect. As a whole, Israel loves the way of the heathen; she has made it hers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great

Matthew 5:4

Those of us in this end-time age may have difficulty comprehending some aspects of the mourning God expects and respects in His children. Our conscience, unless we carefully guard it, can easily adapt itself into accepting its cultural environment. Society's ethics and morals are not constants. There exists a very real pressure for them to decline from God-established standards; what one generation considers immoral or unethical might not be by the next. For instance, what appears on public movie screens over the past thirty to forty years has changed dramatically.

In 1999, the President of the United States went on trial for clearly breaking God's commandments and for crimes for which lesser people are presently serving time. The public, however, gave him high approval ratings, perceived his adulteries and sexual perversions as private affairs, and considered his perjury before a grand jury as deplorable but "no big deal."

Paul warns us in Hebrews 3:12-15:

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."

The mourning Jesus desires is the kind that exhibits a softness of heart that is ready for change in a righteous direction, one that knows it has done wrong and is eagerly willing to have it cleansed into holiness. We of this generation face an uphill battle because, through such media as television and movies, we have vicariously experienced the breaking of God's law in unparalleled frequency and in vividly sympathetic ways. On the screen life is cheap, property is meaningless, sexual purity is scoffed at, stealing is fine "if it's necessary," and faithfulness is nerdish and corny. Where is God in it? How much of this world's attitudes have we unwittingly absorbed into our character? Is our conscience still tender? Is mourning over sin—ours and others'—a vital part of our relationship with God?

Godly mourning plays a positive role in producing the changes God desires to produce His image in us. We need to pray with David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). He asks God to give him what did not exist before, that his affections and feelings might be made right, and that he might not have the callused attitude that led him to adultery and murder. A plea of this kind is one that God will not deny. If we are truly serious about overcoming and glorifying God, it is well worth the effort.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning

Matthew 8:3

Knowing the gruesome details of leprosy, one can easily imagine the crowd hastily parting as this man worked his way toward Jesus. Yet, He, in contrast, reaches out to touch the leper, signaling His willingness and power to heal. In Exodus 15:25-26, God reveals Himself as Yahweh Ropheka, or "the Eternal-Who-Heals," at the incident at Marah. Nathan Stone writes in his book, Names of God,that this name means "to restore, to heal, to cure . . . not only in the physical sense but in the moral and spiritual sense also" (p. 72). Dying to sin and living for righteousness are a kind of healing through Jesus Christ.

Ordinarily, uncleanness is transferred among men, but holiness is not (Haggai 2:10-14). This scene of the leper coming to Christ pictures divine reconciliation, since what is holy and what is profane usually do not mix. This is overcome through the work of our Savior. Jesus stretches out His hand and commands the leper to be cleansed, showing God in action as the Eternal-Who-Heals. This is why the leper's uncleanness does not transfer to Jesus - at first.

Later, however, the death penalty for sin was transferred to Jesus. A price had to be paid for the leper's cleansing. "Clean" has a sense of purity and holiness, so to be cleansed was to be made pure. Proverbs 20:9 says, "Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin'?" The leper could no more pronounce himself clean than we can pronounce ourselves sinless (I John 1:10). Proverbs 20:30 adds, "Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart." Comparing these two verses from Proverbs suggests that a certain chastening is required for cleansing.

Isaiah 53:4-5 adds another piece to the picture:

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

These verses place the emphasis of our cleansing from spiritual impurity on Christ: He paid the price to heal us and restore us to fellowship with God.

Thus, when Jesus Christ became sin for us, on Him was transferred all uncleanness. For those who have repented and accepted His sacrifice, there is increasingly more responsibility to continue this cleansing process in cooperation with and submission to Him. Peter summarizes this idea in I Peter 2:24, "[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed."

Staff
The Gift of a Leper

Romans 2:14

Even before Isaac Newton wrote down his observations about gravity, people had a pretty good working knowledge of the principle. It was widely understood that when an apple fell from a tree, it would hit the earth. Children learned at an early age not to throw rocks straight up—what goes up, must come down. The average peasant did not need Newton's proofs to verify these things; he had enough experience on his own to vouch for this natural law. The effect was easily observable.

The law of gravity exists entirely apart from human legislation. Isaac Newton did not create it, but merely wrote it down. It is a fact of everyday life and cannot simply be ignored. It is always in operation. A man may choose to pretend it does not exist, but he does so at tremendous risk to himself and others.

Gravity is but one of the many natural laws—those phenomena, not of human origin or governance, that have been proven to always occur whenever certain conditions exist. These cause-and-effect principles govern much of our lives. We may not be aware of the specifics—or willfully choose to ignore them—but, like gravity, they operate continuously. These are not laws we can vote on. We either comply, or we suffer the consequences.

The rest of God's laws are no different. They are not of human origin, and thus are beyond human regulation. They are always in force. They were not created by Moses but were merely recorded by him. And, like gravity, a man may choose to pretend they do not exist, but he will still reap the consequences for transgressing them.

One of these very broad natural laws is stated as follows: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life [through] Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). We normally consider "death" just to mean "the cessation of life," yet that definition is too narrow for this verse, where death is contrasted with eternal life. Eternal life is more than just life without end; an endless life would be torment without relief unless it also had with it the proper quality. Eternal life is living the way God lives. It is knowing or experiencing God (John 17:3), which will always produce the best and the most. It is not necessarily synonymous with material success, but instead consists of things that money cannot buy: security of mind, peace among relationships, joy without regard to physical circumstance, etc.

Death, then, while it would include the cessation of life, also means not living the way God lives. It means having a quality of life that is not eternal, whether in duration or in excellence. We can see that sin produces death by three means: 1) Sin brings on the penalty of eternal death, which can only be atoned for by Christ's sacrifice; 2) sin will always diminish the excellence and quality of life, whether it is immediately recognized or not; and, 3) some sins hasten physical death.

A few examples demonstrate this powerfully:

  • The article, "The Empty Cradle Will Rock: How abortion is costing the Democrats voters—literally" (Wall Street Journal), details the "Roe Effect." This postulates that since children tend to absorb the values, political views, and lifestyle of their parents, abortionists are actually damaging their cause through its very practice. They are destroying the individuals in the next generation who would be most likely to support abortion. Abortion not only results in the death of an innocent, but also in a greatly diminished quality of life as the mother copes with guilt, depression, and even an increased risk of breast cancer.

  • As Pam Stenzel discusses in her sobering presentation "Sex Has a Price Tag," some of the most common sexually transmitted diseases may not be fatal but instead render the recipient unable to have children. Incidentally, a large number of these STDs can be contracted even when so-called "safe sex" is practiced. In this example also, the individuals in one generation who practice a sinful lifestyle have a decreased chance of producing another generation. Yet, even if neither pregnancy nor infection occurs, there is still an emotional price to pay. Sex outside of the bonds of marriage will always result in a diminished quality of life.

  • Likewise, the homosexual lifestyle is aptly named the "culture of death." It is more concerned with self-gratification than with having a stable, secure family life as God intends. In addition, this lifestyle is essentially synonymous with AIDS and other debilitating diseases. From 1981 through 1999, there were 751,965 cumulative reported cases of AIDS in the U.S. At least 56 percent of the AIDS diagnoses occurred in homosexual or bisexual men. In other words, two percent of the population had at least 56 percent of those reported AIDS diagnoses (see "A Pharmacist's View on Gay Marriage"). As well, the average life expectancy for homosexuals is 20-30 years less than for heterosexuals, not only because of the high rate of disease, but also because of the extremely high rates of suicide, substance abuse, and "domestic violence."

Natural laws, whether they govern falling apples or human relationships, can be seen as harsh or restrictive, especially if one is on the wrong side of them (Romans 8:7). Or they can be seen as benevolent guides to help us live the way God Himself lives—both with excellence and longevity. The apostle Paul considered God's laws to be holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12) because they instruct us in the best way to live—the way that will not just produce length of days but also true fulfillment. We can either take God's Word for it, or we can observe the consequences of the choices of others. Or we can do what is natural for mankind and personally re-prove each of these laws the hard way.

Jesus Christ was once asked what should be done in order to have eternal life. His answer? "If you want to enter into life [eternal life—godly life], keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:16-17).

David C. Grabbe
Natural Law

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Adulterers will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But God will forgive an adulterer if he genuinely repents, and He can still give him eternal life ( II Samuel 12:13-14; John 8:10-11). However, the consequences of sin still have their harmful effect, as we see in the death of David and Bathsheba's child. Although forgiven, David and his household endured violence from that point forward because of his adultery and murder.

Martin G. Collins
The Seventh Commandment

1 Corinthians 15:55-58

Is it still possible for us to sin and experience sin's sting? As long as the laws that define sin exist, the possibility of death remains because it is possible for us to break those laws. This is why verse 58 urges us so strongly to be steadfast and immovable in the work of the Lord. His work in us as individuals is to refine our character so that we never sin. We are in training to be in God's image, and God does not sin.

The term “sting” illustrates what is painful about sin. The most painful element involved in sin is death, and with death, all hope is lost. Sin kills. Do we believe that? Sin is the cause of death. The function of the laws of God is to provide knowledge of sin. God's laws give us knowledge of what to do and what not to do. Sin is still to be feared!

We must be careful, though, because our carnal nature is so deceitful that by giving us knowledge of what not to do, sin can actually play a role in arousing us to desire a taste of it, to experience its excitement. And so we can give in to sin. We must fight this desire with all our being. After God commanded her not to eat of the tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden, Eve failed to fight the intriguing desire, and she ended up sinning! God's laws have never been against us; He designed them for our good. They continue to give us guidance about what is right.

Our sins imposed the death penalty on us—and ultimately on our Savior—in the first place and still do if we continue sinning after He pays the debt. God's laws have not changed, and the penalty for breaking them remains the same despite Jesus' merciful payment on our behalf. Irrespective of the New Covenant, the laws continue to define sin. If we continue sinning, His death for our benefit is absolutely wasted. Specifically, at our baptism, His death pays only for sins committed in the past.

Christ's death is the means, the way, that opens the door for completing the perfection of our character into His image in preparation for the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit God gives us through the laying on of hands is the means of keeping His laws far more perfectly than before our calling. Sins committed after accepting His shed blood can put one on the road to the Lake of Fire because His death did not remove our obligation to obey the law. We must repent of sins committed following baptism so they do not produce more severe consequences.

God's laws still exist and are still in force, guiding us in living God's way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part One)

Hebrews 3:12-14

"The deceitfulness of sin"! In this context, to be deceitful is to be seductively and enticingly misleading. Sin promises what it cannot deliver. It promises pleasure, contentment, fulfillment—life—but its delivery on these things is fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying. Its deceitfulness is the very reason why it has addictive qualities. It lures us on to try to capture what it can never deliver.

The pleasure is never quite enough to produce the contentment and fulfillment one desires. Thus, people are forced into greater and deeper perversions until it results in death. All along the way, from its inception to death, sin quietly produces hardness of heart. Like a callus that forms over a break in a bone or stiffens a person's joints, sin paralyzes right action.

"Hardness" is translated from skleruno, from which name for the disease multiple sclerosis is derived. In a moral context, it means "impenetrable," "insensitive," "blind," "unteachable." A hardened attitude is not a sudden aberration, but the product of a habitual state of mind that reveals itself in inflexibility of thinking and insensitivity of conscience. Eventually, it makes repentance impossible. The will to do right is completely gone.

The will is the power or faculty by which the mind makes choices and acts to carry them out. An old adage says: "Sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny." At first, against his will, a person engages in some forbidden pleasure out of weakness, curiosity, or sheer carnality. If the practice continues, he sins because he cannot help doing so; he is becoming addicted to it. Once a sin becomes a habit, he considers it to be almost a necessity. When it becomes a necessity, the destiny is produced.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does

2 Peter 2:4

God is unbending in regard to His law. Peter shows this by illustrating that it does not matter who sins or when he sins. Before God ever created man, angels broke the law of God. God, being just and holy, could do only one thing. Because He cannot permit sin to abide in His Kingdom, He had to follow through with the punishment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Sixteen)


 




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