Greg answers questions on why Jesus didn’t raise himself from the dead, what can be used instead of Jer. 29:11 for encouragement, what the difference is between Jews, Israelites, and Israel, if a regenerate Christian could be demon possessed, and how to evangelize to a former Christian that doesn’t care about God, the afterlife, and Jesus
- 1Cor.15:14-17 states that God raised Jesus from the dead. But, if Jesus is God, then why couldn’t He raise Himself?
- What can we use instead of Jer. 29:11 for encouragement?
- What is the difference in Jews, Israelites, and Israel? Is Israel ever a people that are not in the specific place of Israel?
- Could a regenerate Christian be demon possessed?
- How do you evangelize a former Christian that does not care about God, the afterlife, and Jesus? He wants no part of religion.
Melinda: Hi, this is the Stand to Reason STR Ask Podcast. #STRask because that’s how you ask your questions. I’m Melinda the Enforcer and guess who I have here this week. Gregory Koukl. Hello, stranger.
Greg: Hello, Miss Penner.
Melinda: Greg, told us the story of jury duty last week on the longer podcast. Check on that. Greg’s been kind of playing hooky from staff meetings for a while because he’s reportedly writing a book.
Greg: I am writing a book.
Melinda: When are you going to finish this thing?
Greg: Well, I’ve got to be done in about two and a half weeks or I’m going to be in big trouble with Zondervan.
Melinda: Okay, good. I hope they get you in trouble. Now, the original deadline was January then another deadline was February.
Greg: You see, just to be clear now, you know you write a book proposal. I did in December of 2014. I say I’ll be done with it in a year. The paperwork doesn’t get finished and signed till May then I’m out of town a lot with summer vacation and whatever and traveling so I really didn’t get started till September. I didn’t have a year, I had three months.
Melinda: Yeah, but then we sort of planned some time off.
Greg: I know, I know. I took a little retreat that helped.
Melinda: Assuming it was going to be done and now you’re back to your regular schedule.
Greg: I know, I know. “All Utopian ideals turn out to be cruel in the end because they cannot be fulfilled,” Francis Schaeffer.
Melinda: You’re very cruel.
Greg: I will say this. I’m very happy with what I’ve done so far. I’m maybe 85% done and I think it will be worth the wait.
Melinda: Yesterday, you were telling me about you’re working on the cross and I’m thinking, well, that’s point four so we’re only three-fifths of the way through this.
Greg: No, no. More than that. The early parts took more time just because of the nature of the material. The cross, there are five parts: God, man, Jesus, cross, resurrection, and there’s an extra part, introductory. Each has individual chapters. Now, I’m towards the end of the, since there’s six total, I’m at the end of the fifth part. That means I’ve got half a part and a part.
Melinda: I’ve read almost all of it and it is very good. People are going to like it. Congratulations because you just heard from Zondervan. You’ve sold over 100 thousand Tactics books.
Greg: It’s really great.
Melinda: Thanking God for how he’s using that book.
Greg: I’m very happy with that, yes. Thank you.
Melinda: Let’s just get down to business here. Greg has four minutes to answer the questions or he gets dinged. As I said before, you submit your questions on Twitter. Use #STRask. That’s where we got these.
Greg: I get dinged for other reasons too.
Melinda: Yeah, but we don’t use the little dinger then. Yeah, dinging is not limited to this podcast. Okay, Greg. Open your bible, please.
Greg: The little dinger. Sometimes she uses a big dinger and it’s painful. All right.
Melinda: The first question. Open your Bible to 1 Corinthians 14 to 17.
Greg: Wait a minute, I know that by heart.
Melinda: Well, then, don’t open it. 1 Corinthians 14 to 17 states that God raised Jesus from the dead but Jesus is God, why couldn’t he raise himself?
Greg: Well, actually, when you look at the different references in scripture to the one who is responsible for the resurrection, you get different accounts. In John, early on, when he cleanses the temple, I think when he says this, they said, “What authority do you have to cleanse the temple?” He says, “Tear this temple down and I will raise it again in three days.” The gospel writer there records this Jesus said in reference to his body, soma, his body. After he was raised, the disciples remembered it and realized it had been fulfilled. Jesus says there, “I will raise it.” Other text says that God raises it.
This particular one, I don’t know if it says God or just the father, whatever, but since Jesus is God, he can refer to the agency of the resurrection from both directions. It’s actually an argument for his divinity because... I’m trying to remember if there’s another passage that identifies the spirit as the one who raises him. The one I’m thinking of says, “If the spirit of the God who raised him from the dead dwells within you, then you will be raised also,” something to that effect. There, it’s the spirit dwelling within you of the God who raised him. Maybe that’s not the passage but we have at least two different agents identified in New Testament text for the resurrection. Jesus raises himself and God raises him. This only makes sense if Jesus is God.
Melinda: We have a blog post from Holy Week called “We Were Saved by a Trinitarian God.” It talks of the work with all three in our salvation.
Greg: Well, one way that I put it sometimes when I talk about this is that Jesus self-consciously raised himself from the dead. I’m referring back to this passage where Jesus cleanses the temple. That’s the place where it’s, I’m looking for it right now, but where he makes the particular claim that they destroy the temple and he will raise it again after three days.
Melinda: Okay. Next question comes from welch64 on Twitter. Jeremiah 29:11.
Greg: Here we go. Boy, we get a lot of work on this one, don’t we?
Melinda: “What can we use instead of Jeremiah 29:11 for that kind of encouragement?”
Greg: Well, this presumes that the statement in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has these plans for welfare and not calamity actually applies to the Christian. I don’t think it does apply to the Christian. It strikes me quite the opposite in the New Testament. In this world, you have tribulation. He says, “Be of good cheer. I’ve overcome the world,” but he makes it clear that our lot in the world is tribulation and hardship and difficulty. “Just as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves for the same purpose,” 1 Peter 4, beginning of the chapter. This idea that God’s plans for us is for welfare and not for calamity, to give us a future and a hope, does not seem to be a promise that God has made to Christians. What I have to do is just find the right Christian verse to say the same thing. I don’t think he’s made such a promise. It’s one of my objections to using this verse in this way. It’s not just that it’s out of context, it seems to be contrary to New Testament teaching.
Now, if you want to over-spiritualize the verse, then you could make it mean pretty much anything you want. Sometimes people will do that. “Oh, you know, it’s my welfare, not my physical welfare, but my spiritual welfare, to give me a future and a hope in heaven.” Well, fine. You’re redefining the words then. That is not what Jeremiah had in mind or God. You can tell that because when you read all around it, the welfare and the future and the hope are all characterized in material terms.
“You will seek me, find me. You will search for me with all your heart. I will afund by you and I will restore your fortunes.” Maybe I shouldn’t say they all relay to material things because there’s a relational aspect that’s identified here. Listen to this, “I will restore your fortunes. I will gather you from the nations and the places where I’ve driven you. I will bring you back to the place where I sent you into exile.”
Wow, okay. That sounds like material stuff that God has in mind there. If we’re going to treat the words with integrity, then we’re going to try to find a promise in the New Testament that God has committed himself to our welfare, our physical welfare, our material welfare, to give us a future and a hope, not for calamity. That’s the word faith gospel. That’s not the gospel of the New Testament.
I can’t help you there. There are lots of wonderful promises, precious and magnificent promises in the New Testament where Peter puts it, but they are not like this. This is a promise that’s tied to the Mosaic covenant. Those who want to go back to Deuteronomy 30, you read there from the first ten or fifteen verses, you get the same thing he’s talking about here, which is why I think God says here in verse 10, “For thus says the Lord, ’When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill my good word to you.’” Fulfill it.
That is something else that he’s given that he will fulfill and then he gives his promise in verse 11. This is a fulfillment of something that he said earlier. You find it in Deuteronomy 30. It’s almost exactly the same wording. This is the material blessings of obedience as part of the Mosaic covenant that God has promised. There’s more going on, obviously, than that with the Jews. This is not related to Christians. Christians have a new covenant. They have a different enterprise. We are strangers in a strange land. You know, life is hard and then you die and go to heaven.
Melinda: A related question. This actually came up. There was a caller to the regular podcast that we didn’t have time to get to. He asked if there are principles in Jeremiah 29:11 that apply to the Christian. A lot of times in Old Testament passages, the verse may not directly apply to us, but it tells us something about God or about our relationship and then we can apply that. Is there a principle here?
Greg: Yes, but the principle isn’t a promise called a principle. What I mean by that is people will say this to me, “Well, isn’t there a principle?” I say, “What’s the principle?” Well, the principle is that God has plans for our lives, for welfare and not for calamity, to give us a future and a hope. You say, “Well, you just repeated the verse.” No, the principle is something that is up above it that is broader and more general.
Well, okay. What is the principle? I think one principle we can take from this, especially when you take verse 10 and 11 in conjunction, “I will visit you and fulfill my good word to you.” God is good at his word. When God promises something, he will fulfill his promise. That is the principle. Now, he made a promise to the Jews under the Mosaic covenant and the Palestinian covenant and the Davidic covenant. There are promises that he made to the Jews that he will fulfill. This what he’s talking about here. In 70 years, you’re gone but you’ll come back to the land that I promised you. God fulfills his promises. How does that apply to us? God fulfills his promises. Whatever promises pertain to New Testament Christians, you can count on God for that just like Jews could count on God for the fulfillment in the promises that he made to them under their own unique dispensation. God’s reliable. That’s for sure.
Now, there’s more if you follow in the text that you can draw from. From that particular set of verses, 10 and 11 together, I think we could draw a principle of God’s reliability to be good for his promises and then apply them to the promises that he’s made to us.
Melinda: Okay. Here’s a kind of related followup question from a different person. It comes from reneesborn on Twitter. “What is the difference between Jews, Israelites, and Israel? Is Israel ever a people that are not in the specific place of the nation of Israel?”
Greg: Yeah, that is actually a way to characterize Jews. They are a people and a nation that cohere in virtue of their ethnicity and the promise of God to their ethnicity. God made the promise to Abraham, repeated to Isaac, and repeated it to Jacob. The promise comes down Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and then out from there to the progeny. Not too all sons of Abraham, not to all sons of Isaac, and all sons of Jacob. It’s restrained and restricted down that line and then it’s expanded to the rest.
Since God’s promise would be fulfilled by one who would come forth from Abraham’s own loins, this is in Genesis 15, we know the promises to a physical people. That is the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel is the name that is given to Jacob after his fight with the wrestling match that one night where his hip got dislocated and he struggled with the Lord. I think that’s when he was given the name Israel. The Israelites are the ones from Israel which is another way of talking about the Jewish people and that comes from Judah, but not all Jewish people are from the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Judah, the land of Judah, is one section of the larger.
You had Israel in the north, you had Judah in the south. You had ten tribes in the north and two in the south. It was just a distribution of land that was defined by civil war right after Solomon died. You had ten tribes siding with the north and they became Israel. Those in the south were called Judah. Judah and Benjamin, those two tribes. There were different faiths for each of those sections after that civil war.
The terms, in general, Israelites, I think, is a general term for those who are Jews, descendants of Israel, who is Jacob and Jacob was a descendant of Abraham. These are all, I think these are all synonyms, largely.
Melinda: The Abrahamic covenant came prior to the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant describes that particular theocracy, that form of government, which is no longer in effect.
Melinda: The Abrahamic covenant came prior to that which identified the descendants of Abraham as the nation of Israel.
Greg: The chosen people.
Melinda: That still is in effect.
Greg: Yes. In my view, it is. There are issues of theology that hinge on this question. Roughly figure Abraham 2000 BC and then Moses, the exodus, about 1500 BC. Then, David and Solomon and Saul about 1000. There’s an easy way to kind of keep track of that. Abraham came half a millennium before the law of Moses. God promises to make this great nation of him and then to use them in a particular kind of way, to bless all the nations of the world.
Now, this happens over time. The numbers are increased. They are protected. As they come out of Egypt, they are given a law that defined them culturally in a way. There are all kinds of unusual things in that law that are meant to keep them separate from the Pagans around them. That was purposeful. It was a dividing wall that was built to keep them from becoming syncretistic. It became and ended itself, unfortunately, by the time of Jesus. They wouldn’t go out and grace the threshold or cross the threshold of a Gentile. This was unclean to them. The law had this function and it came later. The ultimate goal was, there early on in the Abrahamic covenant, that God was choosing a man to raise up a nation through. Which nation would then be the way of God reaching out to all of the nations of the world and blessing them? That ultimate blessing came through the new covenant secured by Jesus of Nazareth.
Melinda: The seed of Abraham physically and the seed of Abraham spiritually.
Greg: Yeah. I think it’s a fair way of... It’s not just enough to be seed of Abraham physically, you also have to be a believer like Abraham to benefit from the promises to Abraham of forgiveness and the like. We are the seed of Abraham spiritually because we’re Gentiles. Jews are the seed, physically. Then, you have some Jews who are also believers that are kind of spiritual and physical seeds. Then, you have the seed, which is Christ, and is spoken of in Galatians. These details that we’re talking about come up in great detail in The Bible: Fast Forward.
Melinda: We can talk about the nation of Israel as the theocracy under the Mosaic law. We can talk about the modern nation of Israel, which who knows how long that lasts. We hope it lasts. Then, we also have the very general term of the nation of Israel as the descendants of Abraham, all the descendants of Abraham, no matter where they’re located physically.
Greg: That’s right. Many are scattered abroad and dispersed. This happened in the first millennium before Christ, 800 or 700 or so. The Assyrian dispersion of the northern kingdom.
Melinda: They never came back.
Greg: They never came back. Right.
Melinda: I know all this because I took The Bible: Fast Forward. It really is a good course. I highly recommend it. It’s the first class I ever took from Greg a millennium ago.
Greg: Yes, it was. It was a long time.
Melinda: You didn’t have gray hair then. I still don’t have gray hair but it’s only because I cover it up.
Okay. Next question. Greg just recently asked that we take some new pictures of the speakers because he says he goes out on the road now and people say they don’t recognize him.
Greg: The pictures, yeah. You’ve got to have the PR pictures that actually look like the speakers.
Melinda: Okay. Next question comes from johannjj14. “Could a regenerate Christian be demon possessed?”
Greg: Well, I don’t think the phrase “demon possession” is quite a New Testament term. I think the word is demonized. It doesn’t make a distinction as to where the demon is, in a sense, located.
Melinda: Don’t some of the people that Jesus healed, claim to be possessed by demons?
Greg: Yeah, well that’s the English translation.
Melinda: The translation, right.
Greg: Demonized. I know people make a fuss about this. Well, a demon can’t be in you because Jesus is in you and what fellowship is like in darkness and that kind of stuff. Then, they’re treating demons and the spirit like a pea in a pod. It’s difficult to talk about these things in one sense because we are using language for spatially located things which themselves are not spatial. Our souls are not in our bodies. They’re identified with our bodies but they’re not in there somewhere. They’re not like sitting on my ribs there somewhere. No, it’s connected and identified.
The question becomes how closely identified can a demon be with a Christian? I’m not sure, I guess is what I’d want to say. My characteristic response or what I’ve kind of always held and I’m not calling it into question, particularly, but I haven’t thought about it for a long time, is that greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. This is probably the safest thing that we can say. There is a union that Christ has with us through his spirit through regeneration that is deep and intimate and cannot be duplicated by some other spirit.
Now, however, that does not mean we cannot be powerfully... Well, Christians would say oppressed by the devil. Again, this is not a biblical term. It might be that we can be demonized in a different fashion, not deeply taken over as property by a demon but like some of the cases where Jesus cast demons out of people. We could be deeply influenced by or...
Greg: Harassed. I’m trying to think of different words. The word oppressed is one commonly used. Harassed. Demonized. If you just go back to the Greek kind of rendering, daimonízomai, or something like that. You can be demonized. You can draw a lot of attention from the nasties. This can happen a couple different ways. It seems to be able to happen if you start messing with those guys in some ways, like the occult, and then you get yourself in trouble. It could happen just the opposite. You’re working really hard for the Lord and you attract the same trouble for a different reason. It is not uncommon for Christian leaders to experience all kinds of challenges and difficulty. I don’t mean that there’s a demon under every bush, but it seems really clear to me that Christians are in the line of fire and there is a sense in which the devil can take circumstances and make them really, really hard on you. I mean, the devil entered the mind of Judas, entered Judas, I think, and also placed the idea of betrayal in his mind. The devil has access to our minds in some ways.
Melinda: Would you say Judas was a believer?
Greg: No, I don’t think Judas was a believer. I was identifying more the access to his mind. He could put the thought in his mind. I have no reason to believe the devil can’t put thoughts in our minds. That’s, I think, the nature of temptation and the tempter. Now, there are Christians who vigorously disagree with me on this. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. It just seems like that’s the case.
What I want to say is you cannot belong to a demon the way some people belonged to a demon in Jesus’ time. However you want to characterize the kind of metaphysical relationship there. You sure can get thrashed about by the dark side if you’re not careful. You want to have your armor on so that you stand firm against the schemes of the devil. We are not to be ignorant of his power, Peter says in 1 Peter 5. He prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him firm in your faith. There’s a threat and there’s a danger there. We take him lightly at our peril. Let’s put it that way.
Melinda: Last question. “How do you evangelize a former Christian that does not care about God, the afterlife, and Jesus? He wants no part of religion anymore?”
Greg: Well, with that characterization, I don’t think you can evangelize them. What is to evangelize? If evangelize means to communicate the news, that’s the way I take it. When you go to evangelize, you’re out there communicating the news to get, hopefully, a response. How do you evangelize that kind of person? That person’s already been evangelized. Been there, done that.
That doesn’t mean they’re unreachable, God can’t get at them and turn them around. I don’t have a lot of suggestions for somebody like this. Unless they are in a position where they are being broken and being humbled by God, they are not going to be responsive, it seems, the way this individual is characterized. Jesus talked about people who, the way he described it, had committed a blasphemy against the spirit. I think there’s some ambiguity about what this amounts to. Most people agree that there is a point in one’s life where you kind of pass the point of no return. You go past this point and you’re done with ever considering the gospel at all in the future. It’s over with. You’re moving on. That’s the point of no return. I’m not entirely sure if that’s the blasphemy but, in any event, those people saw Jesus doing his incredible works and they attributed his power to Satan. That was the best they could do with visually seeing Jesus doing miracles powers. “Yeah, he’s demon possessed.”
Melinda: We have an article on the website you wrote a long time ago called “Unbelievable Unbelief.” The Pharisees saw Jesus raise Lazareth from the dead and then plotted how to kill Lazareth, basically to get rid of the evidence of Jesus raising somebody. You see a miracle like that and instead of bending your knee to the man who did it, you say, “Let’s go kill the guy again.”
Greg: That’s right. Get him out of the way. That is unbelievable unbelief, but many people are characterized by that. Some people say, “Well, if only God would do this, that, or the other thing,” raise the dead or appear right in front of me. I heard one person put it this way, “If God appeared directly in front of you, you wouldn’t go to God, you’d go to a psychiatrist.” I think it characterizes the way a lot of people are about this thing. A person like this one just described seems like there’s nothing you can do for them except pray for them.
Melinda: A lot times, people have reasons for what they believe or don’t believe other than the intellectual ones, the ones that you can discuss and argue about. Their heart, their desires, the emotions that they want. Sometimes, you just don’t have access to those. Those are the things only God can work on.
Greg: Yeah. There are emotional reasons. There are prejudicial reasons. Don’t confuse me with the facts kind of thing. They’re going to be locked down in what they believe.
Melinda: They want to live their own way.
Greg: Yeah. That’s the last one. They’re just bull-headed. I don’t know what the situation here is with the person that was just described. The way he was described or she was described looks like there’s nothing to say to them at this point.
Melinda: Maybe it’s not just evangelizing or witnessing to them. Maybe it’s just staying friends with them and walking with them and seeing what God does in their life when they’re open again.
Greg: It’s always a good idea to stay friends with people that are your friends. You don’t abandon them unless there’s a bad company corrupts good morals kind of thing, sometimes that’s a problem. Generally speaking, being there and being around them makes a difference because, quite possibly, the time will come when everything that they are leaning on in their life collapses and then you can be there to help them, pray for them, whatever. That might be another opportunity. People say, “Well, Jesus is a crutch.” I say, “Yep. He is.” Crippled people need crutches. The real question is whether your crutch can hold you. Everybody’s leaning on something.
Melinda: Just a reminder. If you want to know where our speakers, Greg, Tim, Brett, and Alan are speaking, you can go to our website, you can go to STR.org/training/events or you can just go to the website, click on training and follow that. We also have a cruise coming up. There’s a banner on the homepage you can click. We’re going to Alaska this summer. Greg’s teaching. J Warner Wallace is teaching. John Stonestreet is teaching. It’s going to be a great cruise, lots of scenery, good fellowship, good teaching.
By the way, Easter is just recently. Your daughters told me that they hid the eggs for you and you couldn’t find them all.
Greg: Well, I found more than Mommy found.
Melinda: Oh, let’s compete with Mommy.
Melinda: The girls found all the eggs you hid.
Greg: No, Mommy hid those. I didn’t. Okay, there’s hiding and then there’s radically concealing.
Melinda: No, I know.
Greg: There was one egg that was in the bottom of a bucket filled with weeds. You should be able to at least see the egg from some angle.
Melinda: No, I knew that’s what the girls must have done. I mean, there’s an art to hiding eggs so that they’re discoverable. I figured they just did their best to hide them really hard.
Greg: We’re going to find these in July.
Melinda: Or when they start smelling then you can locate them. Anyways, that’s it for this week. I think that’s enough. You can send us your questions on Twitter. Use #STRask and then just tweet the question. That’s the name of the podcast. We post a new one every Monday. I’m Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl this week for the STR Stand to Reason Podcast. Bye bye.