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How Biblical Terms Impact Your Christian Beliefs
Today, we find three main branches of Christianity: Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic. Each branch has its own set of dogma, very similar orthodoxy (such as the Nicene Creed), but not entirely the same. Also we find a different mode of translating and interpreting the scriptures (even disagreement on certain books of the Old Testament). Each one has it own theological approach to scripture, tradition and thought.
How does this relate to the terminology we find in scripture? Why is this relevant to you?
When you pick up your Bible, such as a King James Bible (KJV), you may not realize just how much theological impact the translators have on what you are reading. Maybe, you think to yourself, "Oh, come on! How could they put that much of their theological viewpoint into the translation of the Bible?"
Well, it is a good question. I believe that even if the translator is attempting to be as unbiased as possible, he can very easily change the meaning of the passage with the stroke of a pen.
In this article, my goal is to show you how terminology within your own Bible has a huge impact on what you believe. Quite literally, your doctrine could be in error, because of you misunderstanding even one simple term in a Bible passage.
HEAVEN AND HELL
Lets start with a simple example. How about the doctrine of "Heaven and Hell". Seems like an easy topic, right? How in the world could someone merely translate the Bible in such a manner to mold your viewpoint on Heaven and Hell?
Well, consider these translations of Acts 2:27:
NIV: because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay
NLV: For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.
NASB: BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.
KJV: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Here, we see the translations of the term "Hades" into English from various translators. When reading these passages above, do you not see a significant difference between their meanings as a result?
When I look at the KJV and see "Hell", I am thinking like a fiery place. When I see Hades, I am thinking the Greeks and the after life, and so on.
However, it is actually refering to the "place of the dead". Looking at all of the passages that use ther term "HADES", I am under the impression it is refering to either one of two things:
VIEWPOINT ONE: Hades is the place where all go when they die (Believers and nonbelievers). Yet "Paradise" (where believers dwell) is located in the highest level of Hades.
VIEWPOINT TWO: HADES is where unbelievers go, while Christians goto Abraham's Bosom (Paradise). Both are distinctly separate places.
The term Hades seems to be equivelant to the term "Sheol" from the Old Testament:
KJV: For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (SHEOL); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. - Psalms 16:10
KJV: For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell (SHEOL). - Psalms 86:13
KJV: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (HADES), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. - Acts 2:27
So, the KJV was crafted around the common Protestant and Catholic doctrine of Heaven and Hell, as the KJV (along with some other Bibles) LITERALLY translate the exact same word "HADES" to mean Hell, 10 times out of 11. Yet, the term means the "realm of the dead", not "Hell" and appears to be the equivelant to "SHEOL" found within the Old Testament.
Yet, if he wipe our mind of any preconceived notions on Heaven and Hell and just seek what is found within the original languages of scripture, we discover error within commonly held beliefs of Catholic and Protestant thought.
On the Protestant side, many believe that when you die, you immediately goto Heaven. However, this viewpoint has some errors. Let me explain. First, you would be considered partially gnostic in thought in the early church with such a viewpoint:
If you take a brief survey of the early fathers of Christianity (we are talking before 300 AD), you discover that they believed in an "intermediate state", whereas you are "asleep" figuratively, until Christ comes to ressurect you and take you to Heaven. Today, we would call this final Heaven the "New Heavens" of Revelation. And this Final Judgement is where "HADES" (the place of the dead) is thrown into the "Lake of Fire" (Actual Hell).
So, long story short, when we die, we are asleep (figuratively) in this intermediate state. This state is the place of the dead. The place of the dead likely has different levels as is indicated in some passages of scripture (Psalms 86:13) and the righteous are in "Paradise" or "Abraham's Bosom" as Jesus indicated, yet not Heaven (paradise is in the place of the dead upon death). The wicked are in HADES (the place of the dead), but there is a vast chasm between where the righteous and unrighteous dwell and those who are unrighteous are in great discomfort. From there, when Christ returns, we are ressurected and taken up into Heaven (New Heavens as seen in Revelation). So, at the end, when all are judged, the believers enter into Heaven (New Heaven w/ New Earth and Jerusalem) and the wicked will be put into Hell (Lake of Fire - God's Presence, as seen on Mt Sinai when Moses received the 10 Commandments). Whether or not those who did not believe upon physical death have the ability to change their mind in SHEOL (the intermediate state), so as to obtain Heaven in the end, it appears very possible (PRO-ARGUMENT 1, 2 - ANTI-ARGUMENT 1, 2). Whether or not life ceases for those who are cast into the Lake of Fire, seems to be up for debate, as some passages make you think the they live forever, while others give the impression life ceases. The question is whether this "second death" refers to ultimate death or perpeptual death or possibly an age of death (the term aion means "an age", so they could be correctively disciplined for an age and then repent potentially. I discuss this here.). In other words: physical death is final for non-believers and their spirit awaits in Hades for the final judgement (spiritual death). The scriptures appears to say that non-believers will either die forever (cease to exist) in the Lake of Fire, as they do not inherit immortality or they are punished for a long period of time in Hell (as the term "eternal" is translated "age" on every verse other than ones refering to God or the afterlife, for which one could question why Hell is eternal when often the term refers to an age of time), repent and then ultimately make it to heaven.
So, what is this New and Final Heaven like? First, there is indication that the New Heavens (where God dwells) will be among men (near or on Earth via New Jerusalem). As can be seen within this passage of scripture:
So, we are not spirits floating around in Heaven, but rather flesh and bones. God restores everything back to his original plan, yet with our new glorious and incorruptable bodies. As our old bodies are destroyed, so also the old Earth is destroyed, to make room for the New Earth and our new bodies.
So, do we worship God 24/7 in this final Heaven as some think this passage here seems to say? No, in actuality, all of our activities are praise unto God. As scripture says we will be bringing our works before the Lord. Also, this passage here says we will dine with God in Heaven. So, likely, we will be doing very similar activities as we currently do on Earth, yet without the element of sin. So participating in worship, sports, fellowship, hobbies, seeing new places, visiting friends and relatives, etc will be among the many activities found in Heaven.
Last, is there time in Heaven? Yes, of course, as there is even mention of time in a various passages, while things are occuring in Heaven.
BACK TO THE TOPIC OF HADES AND PARADISE: :
What about this 3rd Heaven and Paradise mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 above? I believe 3rd Heaven is the final heaven we believers goto (1st Heaven is the sky, 2nd Heaven is space, 3rd Heaven is God's Heavenly Realm) and Paradise is upper SHEOL (place of the dead), which we goto first waiting to be ressurrected and ultimately meeting Christ up in the clouds, at His Return. So, we can not deny this intermediate state and we see here Paul talking about two separate locations and two seperate miraculous events.
Further, if you look closely at scripture, you discover that the fire that is in Hell or the Lake of Fire, is refering to the fire of God's presence (Deut. 4:24, Exo. 3:2, Numbers 11:3, Lev. 9:24 , Acts 2:3). It is not God playing a vindictive role, taking out inordinate vengence on people. Rather, the state of non-believers in the afterlife is what causes the turmoil while in God's presence (in God's presence, yet outside God's kingdom). For the believer, we are in the very same presence of God. Yet because of our new state, it is neverending joy and happiness as we are made into new creatures that can live in God's presence. This viewpoint regarding God's presence being fire and brimstone, is taught within the Orthodox Christian Church. The Catholic and Protestant churches tend to look at "fire and brimstone" (Rev. 9:17, 21:8) as the punishment side of God, and not his holiness, power, love or presence.
This might sound all odd, but if you read the early fathers on the topic of Heaven and Hell, you would discover, they actually condemn the idea of you going immediately to Heaven after death (as you are then denying the intermediate state).
Within the common Bible translations of Protestants and Catholics, this is made all the more confusing, as with the King James Bible, they seemed to have translated such words through their own theological prisms.
For more exploration on Heaven and Hell, see this article here.
A few of you may think I am delusional to even claim that a fraction of the church does not understand the definition of "faith" or "belief" in Christ from scripture. How could a Christian church get that it wrong, particularly a Protestant Denomination? After all, we Protestants have cornered the "Saving Faith" topic.
Well, I believe it comes down to those spreading the "Easy Believism" gospel, rather than the True Gospel. They take only a portion of the definition of faith and cut out the part they do not like. Consider the red highlighted portions of the greek definitions below:
As you can see here, it is more than just mere "belief" in Jesus or God that is required. Rather, your faith has to be alive with repentance and commitment towards Christ. However, you have some churches who teach an odd gospel, which says you do not need to have Christ as your Lord. He only needs to be your Saviour. So, you are not responsible for your actions and are not required to be commited, just "believe" and you are saved. Such a viewpoint as this is just heresy (a different gospel). As it is a totally selfish gospel, devoid of any love or commitment towards Christ.
It is clear, when reading the Gospels that this faith in Christ has to be active. You would have to ignore most of the Gospels, some of the Epistles and a large portion of the Old Testament, if you want to believe that faith in Christ, does not require any repentance or commitment. This is all too clear if one wipes their mind of preconceived notions prior to reading the Bible. The Bible does not have to fit your theological mindset, rather your mind needs to be renewed by the Word of God - Rom 12:2, Eph 4:23.
My point is that the term "faith" has lost some of its meaning within some churches, because of their theological constructs. As a result, they paint onto the biblical text their idea of what faith is, rather than seeking the meanings within the original languages of scripture.
For further study on this controversy, see John MacArthur's article here.
IMMORALITY AND SINFUL NATURE
With this topic, it was several years before I noticed an odd pattern within english Bible translations, correlating with prevelant church teaching. It is not something easily noticed, yet this error makes a huge impact on the topic of "immorality" and "sin" in general.
If you look at the definitions of various Greek words related to immorality, you discover that some of the definitions of these words have been largely ignored for decades. At first glance, many people may think these ignored definitions have no bearing for today. However, I believe these definitions are vital to truly understading the Mind of God regarding immorality.
For instance, let us consider the term "adultery". When you think about the term "adultery", you likely think of someone cheating on their spouse. Of course, this is one of the main and obvious defintions of adultery. However, notice the red highlighted portion of its definition below:
Notice that "idolatry" is one component of the definition. How often do you hear people refer to idolatry as "adultery"?
You can also find idolatrous components to these sins as well: "fornication", "revelings", "drug use/sorcery", "harlotry", "gluttony", "orgies", "sodomy" and other such sins.
List of Obscured, Yet Relevant Definitions:
Again, I have to ask you, why don't you and I ever hear pastors preaching about this from the pulpit?
For now, I will let you wonder, as we discuss some of the meanings of these terms from scripture.
First, let us consider the term "fornication". We are told by many that this refers to "sex before marriage". However, that is the least of its definitions as the theology of the Old Testament has only one case where someone is punished for sex before marriage (a daughter playing a whore in her father's house), while all the others do not have a punishment (yet marriage obligations, in the case of a man sleeping with a father's virgin daughter):
The term "fornication" actually refers to any form of "sexual immorality" as defined within scripture (as listed within the passages of scripture). However, note, its second vital definition of worshipping idols or eating food sacrificed unto idols/devils. Again, we can see, a definition that has been obscured and lost within our churches. When have you heard of fornication used to refer to "idolatry"? When have you been warned not to commit adultery or fornication with the world?
So, why do each of these words have a double meaning? I believe it comes down to God's Mind. His true theological mindset -
The two Great Commandments:
When God defines each of these terms, we see the twofold design. One side of the sin is a violation of your neighbor's rights. The other side of these sins is a violation of God's rights.
Ok, now lets consider two terms: "orgy" and "revelings".
I have to go out on a limb here and suspect you are thinking the definitions for both are "group sexual intercourse" and "crazy partying" respectively. Am I right?
Now, upfront, I want to indicate to you that the activity of an orgy, as defined today, is sinful in various forms, as it could include gay sex activities (prohibited in scripture), or it could be a form of "chambering", which means defiling the marriage bed (theft of another man's wife). In that, marriage never includes a "group" of people, hence it goes against the ideal design for sex. However, we can not conclude every form of an orgy (today's definition) is a sin, because polygamy is not a sin (one man with more than one wife in bed for instance).
I speculate that most Christians assume the term "orgy" in scripture refers to a bunch of people having sex. As this is what the term means in our current society and what I was thinking prior to doing this study.
However, as I have mentioned in several other articles, many words within scripture are incorrectly defined by Christians today. Terms such as fornication, adultery and lust are generally only partially understood.
Well, it appears that after doing some research, the term in the Greek refers to a drunken party, parade, etc to a diety, such as Bacchus, who was son of Zeus and represented wine, unrestricted partying, etc. Matter of fact, you can see in CrossWalk.com's Strong's Concordance right here, that is exactly what it is refering to. And, when you read this definition in Crosswalk, probably like me, you have no clue who Bacchus is nor do you have a clue what occurred in such festivals. Also, interestingly, on Dictionary.com you can see the word history for the term "orgy" and you discover that it changed meanings around the 18th century (keep in mind the KJV Bible was written prior to the 18th Century).
However, again, I have to ask you why don't you and I know this already? Is it interesting how so few people truly go into depth and study the Greek and Hebrew. We are sheep without a shepard, it seems sometimes. Our pastors, goto these grand theological seminaries to come out indoctrinated. Did they study this? Why haven't you and I heard about it, if they did?
Seeing we need to keep scripture in its context and that it is unwise to impose our niave understanding of definitions onto the text, lets look at who Bacchus was and what these festivals to him encompassed. I am no theologian, nor do I have a Phd in anything, but I am able to type words into a search engine and look up information (on a side note, I did receive a 135 on an IQ test and 146 in understanding words/sentences. Darwin had the same overall score. How insulting, considering the idiotic theory he postulated.). I found this article here, discussing Bacchus.
Read through the page a little. Soak it in and get an idea of what the term "orgy" or "revelings" means. Isn't it interesting. Doesn't it sound a lot like what happened to the Israelites while Moses was talking to God on Mount Sinai. He came down, and saw them all praising a golden calf with crazy dancing, drunkeness, music and lewdness.
And, isn't it interesting. When you read about Bacchus, did you notice something I noticed? I noticed a little pattern here that relates to a few things in society today. Did you notice the part where they tore open animals? Where they danced until they could not dance anymore? Crazy drunken activity? Doesn't that sound like a heavy metal concert? A little? Particularly those who talked about Satan in their lyrics? Remember heavy metal singers biting heads off bats? Could that be an orgy? Revelry today? Or these Indian festivals, where they dance around, get into a trance like state, while worshipping an idol or false god? Isn't it interesting? I guess orgies and revelry do exist today and now we know where they are and what to avoid.
Or how about Marti Gra? Doesn't that seem to fit the context pretty well? Drunkeness, crazy partying. Not sure about idolatry with Marti Gra, but I have noticed that most of these instances where they start to worship some false god, such as Satan or one of these idols in India, they seem to be almost controlled or moved by a fallen spirit to kill animals, to dance like crazy, getting drunk. So, its not normal drunkeness or normal dancing. Its sort of a spirit or something driving them.
How about the phallus and the parade and the procession of Bacchus? Doesn't that sound familar? What came to your mind? Gay pride day? Gay parades? Isn't that interesting. Another form of an orgy. Not really sex acts, but more so, the mood, the theme, the condition of the mind and the influence. I have seen some of this in some of these pornstars as well. Sort of an influence. Sort of like a spirit is driving it.
Maybe I am just looking into it to much, but doesn't it make more sense to actually look at what words mean in scripture, instead of just assuming things?
Am I saying all heavy metal is evil? No, as there is Christian heavy metal (paradoxical, yes?). Are all parties evil? No, as not all parties have drunkness, idolatry and/or lewdness. Am I saying all gay gatherings are evil? Not exactly, as there are also celebate or temperate Christians who have no interest in women (what we would call Christians with gay leanings) and they could meet for a normal function.
SO, WHAT ARE THE ACTUAL SINS WE ARE TO SHUN AND AVOID?
In Galatians 5:18-21, it discusses the "works of the flesh". I was studying the greek behind these words today and found some interesting patterns. Most of the sins mentioned can be grouped into for genres:
If you are blind to something, you can not see and will stumble in the dark. Notice, the church always focuses predominantly on number 3 above and seems to minimize the others listed.
But, if you think about it, number 2 and number 4 on the list seems to be the church's main sins. Think about it and consider what James 4 says. The very first verse is talking about strife and sedition among believers. Isn't that the 4th sin on my list above? Yes, the church's blind spot: division and quarrels within its members. Ignoring how violence, evil talking, division, fighting is a sin and how it is rampant in the church. We bear its scars throughout church history. How many denominations are there? Why are there so many denominations? Ponder James 4 and you will know why. It is because of our sinful nature and evil desires.
The term fornication refers to idolatry as well as sexual sin. And the church commits idolatry by forsaking its first love and going after its own desires.
What is being said in this passage? That people are having sex and sleeping around? Of course not. It is refering to the use of adultery in context of your relationship with God. Sexual sin is similar to idolatry. They are intertwined. Idolatry is "cheating on God". Adultery is "cheating on your spouse". So, when you fight, divide, you are commiting fornication (idolatry). Look up the definition of fornication here. Notice, fornication is not refering to sex before marriage, but rather adultery, incest and idolatry.
What is the common link between adultery, incest and idolatry? They violate love towards God and neighbor by robbing God or your neighbor of what is rightfully due to them. It is not about some intrinsical sinful value to sex. It is about cheating. The sex act is the channel of the cheating, not the sin in itself.
But why is so much of the church blind to these sins? I believe I know the answer. It comes down to a small trail of error early on in church history. A glaring focus on the flesh through the eyes of Gnostic Philosophy, Stoic ideals and Plato's influence.
Early on within church history, the predominant philosophy within the world was that the world was created by the evil one, while the spiritual world was created by God. And these two natures were at war with each other. So, all physical and fleshly desires are evil, while all spiritual desires are good.
Also, interestingly, the same can be said regarding Heaven and Hell. These ideas also were heavily borrowed from the middle ages of church history (can anyone say Dante's Inferno?). Yet, the apostles always made sure to show where the relation ended. Yes, Hell is like Hades, but that does not mean it relates in all greek conceptual understanding. Yes, the flesh relates to the Gnostic idea of the physical world, yet only to the point of it being corrupted by the evil one, not made by the evil one. Hence, not all physical is evil.
Although Christianity relates partially to these concepts, the Apostle Paul and John sharply rebuked Gnosticism and this viewpoint of the world. Yet, because of laziness within the church, we find these vain philosophies started to take root early on within the church.
So, this led to a heavy emphasis on physical conduct (sex, marriage, foods, pleasure based activities), while a vacuum was set in place on spiritual side of these sins mentioned in scripture. Hence, today, we see people focus solely on the physical side of these terms relating to sin and totally ignoring the spiritual side of these terms.
What am I saying here? IN OTHER WORDS, because of these errors in definitions you and I have been blinded to the sin of idolatry. The sin of strife, fighting, sedition. It is all related. Intertwined. Because we are told fornication, adultery, lasciviousness, etc only refers to sex. As a result, we do not understand God correctly and sin in ways we did not realize! Division. Quarrels. Fights. Covetousness. Greed. Power. Selfish control over our own destiny, our own churches, our own money, our own life. All those sins you can not identify anymore, because they have been erased from the definitions in scripture. Because now, it is convenient not to give your life, your church, your will over to Christ.
It is convient to compromise and be diverse. Accept other religions. That is a form of idolatry. And at the same time, you are fighting with other Christian denominations. Forsaking scripture.
I am not saying be united with non-Christians who have "churches". Rather, unite with your brothers in Christ and forsake fighting over small doctrinal issues.
So, I am saying, put less emphasis on the physical side and more emphasis on the spiritual side of these terms. As, often, you find people adding and expanding the meanings of sin way beyond the meaning and intent of the text. Revelings is not a Christian party. Adultery is not looking at a nude photo. Fornication is not fraternizing with a member of the opposite sex (Consider the odd rules at Pennsicola Christian College). The point is to not violate people's rights or dishonor God.
We need more emphasis on exposing the idolatry that can be found within churches today. It is very rampant. Could you imagine your whole church committing adultery?
Could any of these things be a form of "cheating on God"? Is not God a jealous God? Wouldn't you be, if your spouse cheated on you?
I think you would be shocked if you learned, just how much New Age, Global Warming Religiosity, One World Religion Thinking, Buddhism, etc are ALREADY rampant in OUR churches around the world, particularly in the United States of America.
To keep abreast on such trends and to fight the good fight of faith, you should check out Jan Markell's "Understanding The Times" radio broadcast. She covers the latest in false trends within the church and helps you to discern what is really going on in our post-modern culture.