Archives For Theology

Many believers wrongly think that for something to be sinful, the Bible must tell us that it is sinful. At least 6 passages teach us the key truth about human sinfulness that in Scripture God has not provided us with exhaustive information about everything that is sinful.

Deut. 23:9 When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.

Ps. 101:3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

Rom. 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

Gal. 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Tim. 1:10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

Rev. 2:24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.

We must learn from the combined force of these six passages that it is not true that if Scripture does not say that something is sinful, it is not and cannot be sinful.

Everything that God has ever said is right. Psalm 66:4 speaks of a future time when all the earth will worship God and sing to Him:

Psalm 66:1 <To the chief Musician, A Song or Psalm.> Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: 2 Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious. 3 Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee. 4 All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.

All the earth has never yet done so. Whatever God says is going to happen will happen.

Someday, Psalm 66:4 will be fulfilled! All the earth is going to worship God and sing to Him someday!

By examining what Scripture reveals about divine rejection of certain altars, an important truth emerges that must inform our understanding concerning divine rejection of certain instrumental music used in worship.

Divine Rejection of Altars

Scripture explicitly reveals to us that there were altars made by humans that God rejected:

Deuteronomy 7:5 But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.

God commanded His people to destroy these altars of the Canaanites as well as all their objects of false worship. It is important to note that the altars were not themselves objects that were worshiped; they were man-made objects that were used in worship.

Those altars were made by people who were made in God’s image. Although they were cultural products made by such people, God rejected those altars and demanded that His people do likewise.

Divine Rejection of Instrumental Music Used in Worship

Just as God commanded His people to reject the altars of those people, so His people were to reject as well the other facets of how they worshiped their false deities (Deut. 12:29-30). Because this divine mandate necessarily included their instrumental music that they used in worship, we see that God rejected their instrumental music used in their worship as well as their altars.

The fact that people made in the image of God made that instrumental music did not mean that music itself had to have been acceptable to God for use by His people in worship.

Discussion

In response to this line of reasoning, some claim that God created all music. Such a claim has no explicit biblical basis.

Even so, to arrive at that position, some say that God made people in His image and they are sub-creators so that He is the Creator of all music in that way.

By the same reasoning, we would have to hold that God is the Creator of all altars. Yet, we see that God demanded the complete rejection of pagan altars.

If one, therefore, yet takes the approach that God is the Creator of all music, then one would not have any basis to deny that there is also instrumental music that God created that He wants His people to reject. That conclusion, however, is precisely what many believers who reason in these ways will not accept.

Conclusion

Just as God has rejected certain altars, so He has rejected certain instrumental music used in worship. The image of God in man does not mean that God will accept whatever instrumental music humans have chosen to use in worship.

Through both his example and his teaching, the apostle Paul highlights the importance of thanking God continually for other believers in our prayers for them. Learning from him, let us do likewise.

Paul’s Example

Rom. 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

1 Cor. 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

Eph. 1:15-16 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

Phil. 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

Col. 1:3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

1 Thess. 1:2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

1 Thess. 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

2 Thess. 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

2 Thess. 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Phlm. 1:4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

Paul’s Teaching

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

Application

In our praying for other believers, let us express thanks to God continually for them. Doing so, we will pray for them the way that God wants us to pray for them.

The Spirit has revealed that there will be a binding of Satan for a thousand years that will take place:

Revelation 20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

Some believers assert that this binding has already happened. One person with whom I recently interacted said that this binding happened when Jesus sent out the seventy (cf. Luke 10:17-20).

A close examination of Revelation 20:2-3, however, shows that it is false to hold that Satan has already been bound in the way spoken of in this passage.

Shut Up and Sealed in the Bottomless Pit

Revelation 20:2-3 expressly states that Satan will be bound for a thousand years in a bottomless pit, shut up in it, and have set a seal upon him during the time that he is in that pit.

The text is very plain that Satan will not be free to do anything on the earth during this time. To assert otherwise is to make a mockery of the text’s saying that he will be shut up and sealed in that pit.

Furthermore, many NT passages speak explicitly of Satanic activity in the world during the entire lifetimes of the Apostles, as recorded in Scripture. A right handling of these passages shows that the binding of Satan revealed in Revelation 20:1-3 could not have taken place and did not take place at any time prior to the writing of the book of Revelation.

1 Peter 5:8

For example, Peter taught that the devil was freely walking about on the earth seeking people to devour:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

It is nonsensical to say that the devil was bound in the specific manner spoken of in Revelation 20:1-3 at the time that 1 Peter 5:8 was inspired by the Spirit.

Comparing 1 Peter 5:8 with two texts in Job further confirms that there had not been any change in Satan’s freedom to roam around on the earth from the time of Job to the time 1 Peter was written:

Job 1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

Job 2:2 And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

Both in Job’s day and at the time First Peter was written, Satan was freely walking about on the earth. He was not bound, shut up, and sealed in a bottomless pit when Peter wrote First Peter.

Revelation 2

Moreover, the glorified Christ directed the apostle John to write seven letters to seven churches late in the first century AD (Rev. 2-3). In 2 of those letters, Christ Himself revealed the active workings of Satan at the very time those letters were written:

Revelation 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Here, Christ talks about the devil’s direct attacks on believers in the church at Thyatira. Satan certainly was not bound, shut up, and sealed in the bottomless pit at that time.

Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Here, Christ talked about Satan’s seat being in Pergamos and his dwelling there. Obviously, because Satan was dwelling there, he certainly was not at that time bound, shut up, and sealed in the bottomless pit.

Conclusion

It is a faulty handling of Scripture to say that the NT supports holding that the binding of Satan spoken of in Revelation 20 has already taken place. It has not taken place!

I recently participated in two discussions about the millennium that were quite eye-opening for me:

Pre-Mil Fallacy

What Do You Believe about The Millennium?

I am very disappointed that only 12 out of 29 people who voted in the poll in the second discussion said that they believe in a future, literal 1000-year millennial reign of Christ on the earth.

Scripture provides revelation about drink offerings in 60 verses, all in the Old Testament. Psalm 16:4 is unique among those verses because it attests to an undeniably evil aspect of idolatry that was never part of any worship that pleased God:

Psalm 16:4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.

David here attests to his knowledge of idolaters who offered blood as drink offerings to their gods. This aspect of their worship was not just evil because it was offered to the wrong object of worship—it was also evil because God has never authorized the offering of any blood as a drink offering in any worship.

Theological Significance

A right theology of idolatrous worship recognizes that such false worship is not limited to worship directed to the wrong object of worship or to wrong motives or heart state; it can and does also extend to doing things in worship that are wrong regardless of the object to whom they are offered.

Application

When we interpret biblical accounts of idolatrous worship, we must take into account that Psalm 16:4 explicitly reveals the offering of blood as a drink offering in such worship. We are therefore never justified in automatically asserting that what was offered to the idol(s) in a given account was acceptable to God and the only problem in that idolatry was that it was offered to the wrong object.

For example, consider what took place in the Golden Calf Incident(GCI) when the Israelites first engaged in idolatrous worship as a nation:

Exodus 32:5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD. 6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

We know from Scripture that God required drink offerings of wine to be offered daily with the burnt offerings that were offered to Him (Exod. 29:40; cf. Num. 15:5; 28:7, 9). He also required drink offerings of wine to be offered with the burnt offerings in the Feasts of the Lord (Lev. 23:12-13;18, 37).

We do not know whether drink offerings were offered as a part of the burnt offerings in the feast to the Lord in the GCI (Exod. 32:5-6). It would seem that the Spirit intends us to infer that they were, but we cannot be certain that they were.

If they did offer drink offerings with their burnt offerings, because they were worshiping an idol, we cannot just assume that they offered drink offerings of wine but just offered it to the idol instead. Based on Psalm 16:4, it may very well be that they offered blood as a drink offering on this occasion in some or all of their burnt offerings.

Conclusion

Psalm 16:4 teaches us that we must keep in mind that idolaters in Scripture offered drink offerings of blood to their idols. Our understanding of the evil character of their worship therefore should not ever automatically be in any given account that they were only worshiping the wrong object but everything else about their worship was acceptable to God.

Through my continuing studies in the book of Daniel, I have found several significant ways that comparing Scripture with Scripture provides important illumination about passages. Looking closely at Daniel 5 compared to Daniel 3 reveals a valuable insight about the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar made.

Daniel 5

The Spirit begins Daniel 5 by telling us that Belshazzar made a great feast in which a large number of people participated:

Daniel 5:1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.

A thousand lords were present at this feast! Beyond the king and the 1000 lords, others were also participants:

Daniel 5:2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.

From Daniel 5:1-3, we learn that there were considerably more than a 1000 participants in this feast.

Daniel 5 versus Daniel 3

Strikingly, the Spirit has chosen to give us a large specified number for how many people participated in Belshazzar’s feast, but He has not done so for how many people worshiped the image that Nebuchadnezzar made! Why did the Spirit want us to know numerical information about the former but not about the latter?

Although we cannot know the answer to this intriguing question, Daniel 5 illumines Daniel 3 in an important way, as follows.

We know that there were more than 1000 participants in Belshazzar’s feast. Given the greater importance of the event in Daniel 3, we should therefore hold that there were more people at the dedication of the image than at Belshazzar’s feast.

This comparison thus teaches us that there surely were well over a thousand people at the dedication of the image in Daniel 3.

Because at least some of the king’s army also seems to have been present at the dedication (cf. Dan. 3:20), and a well-armed presence of a sufficient number of trusted soldiers would have been necessary for ensuring the safety of the king and his guests, we should expect that there would have been more armed soldiers present than there were present officials in Nebuchadnezzar’s government. Reasoning in this way teaches us that there were at least more than 2000 people present at the dedication of the image.

Even if one says that Nebuchadnezzar may have had only half as many lords in his government as Belshazzar did in his, the presence of the army would still mean that there were more than 1000 people at the dedication of the image.

Daniel 3 records King Nebuchadnezzar’s making a colossal image and then acting to bring about the dedication of the image. Some advocate that sound interpretation of the passage limits what we can say happened to what amounts to a minimalist interpretation.1

One minimalist interpretation holds that the only thing that we can say with certainty took place was that those assembled bowed before the image and that bowing itself was the worship rendered to it. For at least seven reasons, we should reject such a minimalist interpretation.

A Royal Event

The king of the most powerful empire of his day ordained what activities the dedication of the image would include. A royal event necessarily would have involved a certain protocol, decorum, pageantry, pomp, majesty, etc.

A minimalist interpretation requires the understanding that the entire event almost entirely lacked any such features fitting for a royal event. Moreover, what kind of dedication event fitting for a king would consist only of a brief bowing down to the image and nothing more than doing that?

No Known Constraining Factors

A royal event ordained by the most powerful human authority of his day necessarily entails certain realities about the situation. No human authority limited the king about what activities the dedication could include. The king did not lack any needed finances to pay for what would take place.

No evidence exists for any time constraints to the event that limited it in any way. No evidence exists for any circumstantial factors that required the event to be as minimal as possible, such as mass famine in the land or an empire-wide plague or impending weather-related calamities or impending invasions by powerful enemies etc.

Given that there are no known factors constraining what could have been done on this occasion, no basis exists for holding to a minimalist position.

The Biblical Witness about the Central Activity in Idolatrous Worship

Scripture provides numerous passages that show that offering sacrifices to idols was a central activity in idolatrous worship about which God informs and warns His people (cf. Exod. 34:11-17). Positing that an idolatrous emperor would dedicate an image of a god without offering any sacrifices to that god goes against that evidence and also goes against what we already know would have been his own previous experience in his own temple.

Explicit Contextual Evidence That Refutes a Minimalist Interpretation

Comparing what the king did earlier to honor Daniel with what Daniel 3 explicitly says brings out a crucial point. The king honored Daniel by bowing to him, worshiping him, and commanding that certain offerings would be made to him.

Daniel 2:46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.

Using the same verbs for bowing and worshiping found in Daniel 2:46, Daniel 3 says that the people bowed and worshiped the image. To hold that the king honored Daniel by doing more to honor him than he ordained to be done to honor his image is an indefensible position.

Understanding what Daniel 2:46 compared with Daniel 3 shows requires that we hold that the dedication event in Daniel 3 included the offering of things to the image to honor it more than the king had offered to honor Daniel. A minimalist interpretation of Daniel 3 is therefore an impossible reading given what Daniel 2:46 reveals.

Would the King Have Dishonored All the Rulers of the Provinces?

To hold a minimalist interpretation of Daniel 3 would include holding that the king did not provide any amenities for his royal guests. Given that the king had previously ordained on a separate occasion that some captives be fed from his choice food, would the king surely not have fed his royal guests with such food?

Moreover, eating what has been offered to an idol in worship is such a vital aspect of the biblical witness concerning idolatry that there would have to be a very compelling basis to hold that this event did not include such eating. No such basis exists so we must reject a minimalist interpretation that asserts that there were no sacrifices offered on this occasion and no eating of those sacrifices afterward.

An Extravagant “Signal” for a “Bare-Bones” Event?

Some proponents of the need to hold a minimalist interpretation say that the musical instruments mentioned in the account were used to sound a “signal blast” to initiate the worship.The explicit mention of at least six different instruments to sound that supposed blast (and a phrase that may signify the use as well of many other instruments) would seem to be a perplexing extravagance for a “bare-bones” event when the herald himself could have given a sufficient signal or one trumpeter could have done so.

Why would a king who supposedly chose to forgo all other extravagances in a dedication yet choose to use an extravagant signal? Taking a minimalist position about everything else that happened hardly makes sense given the diverse nature of the musical instruments used in the event.

Consideration of the Aftermath of the Event

A minimalist interpretation of Daniel 3 promotes a lack of consideration about the aftermath of the event. Had the king only directed all those present to bow to the statue and then return to their homes, the people would have returned to their homes having experienced a strange event in which the emperor bestowed less honor on his god in a dedication ceremony of kingdom-wide importance than the people were routinely used to bestowing on their gods.

Had the king done so, he would not have communicated to them the proper appreciation of the greatness of his god that he would have wanted them to come to have. A minimalist understanding of what happened would thus mean that the king did not accomplish his objective of setting forth the surpassing greatness of his god in a manner that would have been in keeping with the greatness of his colossal image.

Because there are no reasons to accept such an interpretation that the king failed to furnish his people with a proper appreciation of the greatness of his god, we must reject a minimalist interpretation of what took place.

Conclusion

A minimalist interpretation of Daniel 3 is unsupportable for many reasons. The king did not only just command that all the people bow as the worship that they offered to the image of his god.

We should reject such a minimalist interpretation of Daniel 3.


1Cf. “Chapter 3 of the book of Daniel revolves around a strange religious ceremony that involved no priests, prayers or sacrifices:

Suppose that a group of evil humans in a remote land gets together and smokes some psychedelic substances. Doing so puts them all into a state of altered consciousness. While in that state, they all suddenly see a towering being of light appear to them.

This being proceeds to tell them that he is the true god and that there is no other god besides him. The being is frog-like in appearance. The spirit being commands the men to make an image of itself and worship that image.

The being orders them to make the image to have three heads even though it only has one head. The men do so and originate an entire religion around the worship of their three-headed frog-like god.

Christian Refusal to Believe What Happened

Some Christians later come to the remote area where these idolaters live and see the idol. The Christians conclude that the people just used their imagination to make an idol that was somewhat like real frogs that they had seen somewhere in their land.

When they try to evangelize some of the idolaters, the Christians refuse to believe what the idolaters tell them had happened to guide them to make the idol. They reject their testimony that they really had seen a spirit being that was frog-like in appearance and that had ordered them to make that idol.

Would such Christians be right or wrong? According to Scripture, there are demons who are frog-like in appearance:

Revelation 16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Therefore, Christians who would refuse to believe such a testimony— if it were ever to be given to them—would actually be wrong in thinking that demons cannot appear to humans to guide the humans to engage in any such kind of creative activity that is of demonic origin.

Application

An important conclusion follows from applying the dynamics of the story related above to the realm of instrumental music. Demons can easily influence evil humans in a similar manner to produce demonic music on instruments so that the music is of demonic origin and not solely a product of human imagination and creativity.