Lesson 25

Jesus explained those who love God, like a good son, would obey him and be blessed. Christians are precious to him; we are his future children. He gives us life through his word of truth so we can be born again and resurrected when Jesus comes back for us. We should always be eager to study, learn and listen to God’s words of life. We must put what we learn into practice, not just think about it, being careful not to pollute the teachings of God with foreign beliefs or rationalize his words until they mean nothing. Most Christian denominations believe the Bible is the truth of God. Which doctrines do you think have been added or subtracted from the Bible? Which scriptures are misunderstood?  Supply your Bible proof.

Matthew 21:28-32 The Message
28 “Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, ‘Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.’ 29 “The son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’ Later on he thought better of it and went. 30 “The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, ‘Sure, glad to.’ But he never went. 31-32 “Which of the two sons did what the father asked?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said, “Yes, and I tell you that crooks and whores are going to precede you into God’s kingdom. John came to you showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, you didn’t care enough to change and believe him.

James 1:16-25 International Children’s Bible
16 My dear brothers, do not be fooled about this. 17 Every good action and every perfect gift is from God. These good gifts come down from the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars. God does not change like their shifting shadows. 18 God decided to give us life through the word of truth. He wanted us to be the most important of all the things he made. 19 My dear brothers, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily. 20 Anger will not help you live a good life as God wants. 21 So put out of your life every evil thing and every kind of wrong you do. Don’t be proud but accept God’s teaching that is planted in your hearts. This teaching can save your souls. 22 Do what God’s teaching says; do not just listen and do nothing. When you only sit and listen, you are fooling yourselves. 23 A person who hears God’s teaching and does nothing is like a man looking in a mirror. 24 He sees his face, then goes away and quickly forgets what he looked like. 25 But the truly happy person is the one who carefully studies God’s perfect law that makes people free. He continues to study it. He listens to God’s teaching and does not forget what he heard. Then he obeys what God’s teaching says. When he does this, it makes him happy.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Contemporary English Version
2 and now he is your God. I am telling you everything he has commanded, so don’t add anything or take anything away.

Lesson 24

Moses is believed to have written the first five books of the Bible during the late bronze age somewhere between 1550 – 1200 B.C. To say he was the author though might be a bit of an overstatement, as he probably just made good use of his Egyptian schooling by writing down exactly what God told him. After all, Moses had no first hand knowledge of the storyline until Exodus 3. For those who believe the Bible is the authoritative word of God, this should come as no surprise. They would agree the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, or divine revelation, came directly from the mouth of God to the pen and paper of those who wrote or dictated it. Collected over the centuries, these books have been kept as the sacred words of God. Steeped in ceremony and tradition, the Jewish scribes took great care not to add or miss a single pen stroke of the Hebrew Bible. It was not their job, it was their life’s calling. Being studied and debated by the priesthood, the slightest details remained constant. The Israelite nation’s remaining two tribes of Judah and Levi lost their homeland and temple and became an enslaved people when they were taken into captivity by the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar. Keeping their sacred scrolls intact and unpolluted was a primary religious goal. Maintaining their beliefs true to what those scrolls taught wasn’t as high in priority. Openly acknowledging the lack of scriptural support for the immortal soul doctrine, Jews have replaced it with teachings from revered scholars and rabies. Not found before or during the first temple period, these beliefs have evolved and developed over the centuries since the Babylonian captivity. Many Christians share similar beliefs in an immortal soul but not the candor about the lack of Biblical support for them. Most Christians claim to find Old Testament support for their beliefs of an immortal soul where the Jews of old found none. Jews from the second temple period until today freely admit there is none. The Old Testament of the KJV Bible comes from the Jewish Hebrew Bible. The Jews lived, preserved, and studied those scriptures exhaustively. They know the meaning, intent and context for each verse. It is their collective family history. Why do most Christians disagree with the Jews about biblical support for the immortal soul doctrine? Was the immortal soul belief established in the New Testament? What balance do you strike between your beliefs and what the Bible teaches? How important is it to believe biblical teachings? Do Bible beliefs contradict themselves? How can you know if any of your beliefs are contradictory?

2 Peter 1:20-21 International Standard Version
20 First of all, you must understand this: No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever originated through a human decision. Instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 40:8 English Standard Version
8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Lesson 23

Some people correctly point out that most Jews during the time of Jesus and today, believed they will live on as a spirit after their bodies have died. Although this belief does exist, Bereans and Christians might ask how, and when did that belief come to enter Judaism and where did it come from. The Hebrew Bible does not contain this belief so it must have come after God inspired it to be written. Wikipedia asserts that it entered during the second temple period, approximately 500 B.C. – 70 A.D. Along with other prophets, Daniel was inspired by God to write about an afterlife but did not supply a lot of detail. Daniel’s account dates around the second century B.C. Between then and the time of Jesus, the immortal soul belief became common amongst Jewish scholars. Jewish mystics of the middle ages expanded the belief’s scope by teaching soul transmigration and reincarnation. The Jews were exposed to the pagan ideas while captive in Babylon and the other conquering nations of Greece and Rome. This text from the First Edition of Immanuel ben Solomon’s “Meḥabberot,” Brescia, 1491.(In the Columbia University Library, New York.) explains where the ideas came from and how those beliefs became accepted during the second temple period. “The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended,”  Despite what many Christians and Jews believe to be true, the immortal soul belief does not derive its origins in the Hebrew Bible of the Old Testament. Man was created mortal when Adam became a living nephesh. The original Jewish scholars explain how God barred Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden so they would not eat from the tree of life and gain immortality. God himself has told us that man is mortal, Plato did not teach him anything. God’s words are unchanging. God loves us and gave Jesus as our saviour, only those who believe in Jesus will not die. If humans already possessed an immortal soul, we would have no need for Jesus to give us life. When accepting doctrines we need to choose wisely. What belief products are you choosing to buy into?

Hebrews 13:7-9 The Message
7-8 Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself. 9 Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.

Genesis 6:3 International Standard Version
3 So the Lord said, “My Spirit won’t remain with human beings forever, because they’re truly mortal. Their lifespan will be 120 years.”

Lesson 22

King James authors translated sheol, gehenna, tartarus and hades as hell. The Greek words hades and tartarus, are steeped in pagan traditions. Strong beliefs and stories surrounding hades and tartarus originated centuries earlier. Used only once, the word tartarus describes where God guarded rebellious angels. Peter used the best Greek word he possibly could. Greeks thought Tartarus to be the deepest and most secure part of Hades. He was not endorsing those Greek beliefs as truth.

2 Peter 2:4 Evangelical Heritage Version
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned but handed them over to chains of darkness by casting them into hell, to be kept under guard for judgment;

Ignoring the associated pagan beliefs, the Hebrew-Jewish authors of the New Testament wanted to describe where a dead person was after they died. Using the Greek language they said the dead were in hades 11 times. Today, if we want to know what those authors meant, we need to understand their Hebrew beliefs. Writing in Greek they couldn’t use the Hebrew word sheol to describe where the dead were. Instead they used the best Greek word posible, hades. The Greeks believed the eldest male child of Rhea and Cronus ruled there as the god Hades. He was also known as the Etruscan god Aita, often accompanied by his three headed dog Cerberus. Had they been writing in Japanese, they probably would have used the word Yomi. The Chinese believe Diyu is the underground place of the dead. Buddhist and Taois beliefs differ on how many levels there may be in Diyu, similar to tartarus in Greek mythology. The Germanic Old Norce belief called it hel-viti, which was later turned into hell in Old English. No matter what language the New Testament authors wrote in, they would have used the word best reflecting sheol. The related pagan beliefs would have been discarded as rubbish by the Hebrew-Jewish authors. Pagan traditions and beliefs have no part with the truth of God. Have any pagan beliefs been mistakenly accepted by you? Are all your beliefs supported by irrefutable scripture? Can you find those proof references?Romans 1:25 Easy-to-Read Version
25 They traded the truth of God for a lie. They bowed down and worshiped the things God made instead of worshiping the God who made those things. He is the one who should be praised forever. Amen.

Isaiah 44:6 New Life Version
6 The Lord, the King of Israel and the One Who saves and frees from sin, the Lord of All, says, “I am the first and I am the last. There is no God besides Me.

1 Peter 3:1
15 Instead, regard Christ the Lord as holy in your hearts. Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it.

Lesson 21

The Bible is the word of God to humanity, but not all Bibles are the same. Today in the 21 century there are hundreds of different versions in English alone with more than 2000 translations into different languages. Each of these translations and versions may put a slightly different spin on how the text comes across to the reader. They may use a word that does not convey the full scope of an original word used. ‘Lost in translation’ can be a good descriptor as each person reading the text may understand it differently than someone else or even differently than from the last time they read it. When a question about accuracy comes up it is prudent to go back to the original language used and try to determine what the intended meaning should be. Choosing the precise Hebrew word in the Old Testament makes the context easier to discern than the Greek used in the New Testament. The New Testament was spoken in Aramaic but written in the prevailing Greek language of the day. The Greek language was developed within the pagan Greek society and those pagan beliefs are reflected in the words used within the Bible. The authors of the New Testament had Jewish understandings and beliefs. When translating the spoken Aramaic into Greek, they used Greek words that best convey the spoken Aramaic intent. All the pagan beliefs associated with the words used, do not apply to the message they intended to convey. An example of this incongruity would be the use of the English word hell. Limited by their English vocabulary, the King James Bible translates four Hebrew and Greek words, each with different meanings, into the one English word hell. Sheol is the Hebrew word meaning the place, or state of death. Sheol was a place of darkness where all the dead went. During the period of the second temple 500 B.C. to 70 A.D, beliefs about Sheol changed to become the place of torture for the wicked, while paradise became the home of blessings for the righteous dead. They were believed to stay separated until the final judgement. Gehenna is the Greek word for the Valley of Hinnom. Located just outside Jerusalem, this steep, short glen was used by the evil Kings of Israel to practice human sacrifices to the pagan god of Molech. Ahaz even sacrificed his own sons there. King Josiah stopped this practice by destroying the pagan altars and desecrating the valley by turning it into a garbage dump. There, excrement, dead carcasses and rubbish would be eaten by ever present worms and maggots with putrid fires burning continually. Gehenna is used 12 times in the New Testament.  Putting them into context, Gehenna is used to describe this vile garbage dump, an unclean place of death. Using Gehenna as a metaphor his audience would understand, Jesus urged people not to sin. What do you think Jesus was telling those people? What do his words mean to you? Why would the Jewish beliefs about Sheol change during the period of the second temple? Does this history affect you?

Matthew 5:30 Living Bible
30 And if your hand—even your right hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Better that than find yourself in hell.