Ask Your Preacher
The New Testament reference to ‘being asleep’ before Christ returns means what? I have a friend who thinks souls are asleep in the grave waiting until His return.
A Little Tired
Dear A Little Tired,
The term ‘fallen asleep’ used in 1 Thess 4:14-15, as well as other places, means that the person has died. ‘Fallen asleep’ is a metaphorical saying that even Jesus used. In Jhn 11:11-13, Jesus said that Lazarus had fallen asleep, and then clarified that meant that Lazarus had died. Just like we sometimes refer to death as the ‘big sleep’, the people of Jesus’ day used that kind of language to refer to death. It has nothing to do with their souls literally sleeping in the grave. When we die, we immediately go to Paradise or torments (Lk 16:22-23), and our soul is separated from our physical body (Jas 2:26).
I've read Leviticus 11:9-12 which says, "And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.” Help; I love shellfish! Please advise.
Under the New Covenant, all food is clean. God sent Peter a vision of unclean beasts and told Peter to “kill and eat” (Acts 10:13). Peter told God that he would never eat anything unclean (Acts 10:14), and God informed Peter that He had cleansed all meat (Acts 10:15). Jesus also specifically said that all food is clean in the New Testament (Mk 7:19).
Later on, the apostle Paul reiterates this idea and says that all meat is clean unless it offends your conscience (Rom 14:20). So, feel free to eat pork, rattlesnake (if you dare), and clams without fear of sin.
I have to ask you something. Why does Jesus tell His disciples to steal? Matthew 21:2-3: that breaks the eighth commandment. Also, Matthew 24:26 contradicts Matthew 28:7. The first says don’t go if someone tells you He’s here or there. Then the other verse says they were told to go, and they went. Why are we supposed to look up to the apostles? Jesus always had to get on to them about faith, told them they needed to be like children, they all betrayed Him, one turned Him in, one kept denying Him, and they all abandoned Him. Sounds to me like He picked the wrong ones. Please help. I love God, but the Bible has lots of problems with contradictions.
Appalled At The Apostles
Dear Appalled At The Apostles,
There are three questions here, and we’ll answer them each in turn. In Matt 21:2, Jesus told His disciples to go and fetch a colt that was tied up – but He specifically said that if the owners of the colt asked about what they were doing, they should reply, and then the owners would give them permission (Matt 21:3). Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to steal; He had supernatural knowledge of someone willing to give their colt to His disciples. There is no contradiction.
Matt 24:26 does say that they shouldn’t believe people when they said that the Christ had come back… but the time context is very important. In Matthew 24, Jesus is addressing what to do when people other than Him say that they are the Christ (Matt 24:4-5). In Matt 28:7, the angel is saying that they can find Jesus in Galilee because He had risen from the dead. One verse deals with false christs that would come after Jesus; the other verse is a command to seek Jesus Himself. No contradiction, just different contexts.
Lastly, we’ll address the apostles. We are told to imitate the apostles inasmuch as they imitate Christ (1 Cor 11:1). There is no doubt that not everything the apostles did was right – they admitted they were just men and not worthy of worship (Acts 10:25-26). However, the apostles were Jesus’ chosen servants to preach and teach His message. The apostles were men of great bravery and faith – men that failed and got back up again to fight another day. We should also follow the apostles because they were led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gave them perfect remembrance of Christ’s life (Jhn 14:26) and perfect knowledge of what God needed mankind to know (Lk 12:11-12).
Did Stephen feel pain when he was stoned? It said he looked as if he had seen an angel and then he fell asleep.
Dear Pain Free,
There is nothing in the text that would lead us to believe that Stephen didn’t feel pain when they stoned him to death. When Stephen was dragged off to that kangaroo court, it says that his face looked angelic (Acts 6:15). It doesn’t say that he had seen an angel. However, Stephen did see the glory of God and Jesus looking down at him from the heavens (Acts 7:55-56). Certainly those things gave him a great deal of comfort and peace as the end came, but that doesn’t remove the pain of having your body bludgeoned to death by rocks. Stephen was a great man of faith and he paid the ultimate price for that faith.
What churches did the apostle Paul plant? And approximately when were they planted?
Dear Church Farmer,
Here is a rough timeline for when the apostle Paul started various congregations (all dates are approximate):
- Various congregations in Cyprus – 48 AD (Acts 13:5-12)
- Churches in the cities of Antioch Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe – 48 AD (Acts 13:14 – Acts 14:24)
- Philippi – 51 AD (Acts 16:12-40)
- Thessalonica – 51 AD (Acts 17:1-10)
- Berea – 51 AD (Acts 17:10-14)
- Corinth – 51-53 AD (Acts 18:1-17)
- Ephesus – 53 AD (Acts 18:19-20)
Paul may very well have started other congregations, but those are the ones we can specifically attribute to Paul’s labors.