#STRask: May 18, 2017

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Published on 05/18/2017

In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about Revelation, ghosts, and animal sacrifices.


  • Any thoughts on the apparent fulfillment of Revelation 12 with the signs in the sky expected on Sep 23, 2017?
  • What are ghosts?
  • Why do modern day adherents of Judaism no longer practice the animal sacrifices and other ordinances of the Old Testament?


Melinda: Well, hi there. I’m Melinda the Enforcer and Greg Koukl is here with me. This is #STRask, STR’s short podcast. You send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. I retrieve them and then I pose them to Greg and we put him on a timer and he’s got four minutes or less to answer them. He gives good, substantive answers in four minutes or less.

Greg Koukl: Thank you.

Melinda: Yes, but we still have the regular podcast on Tuesdays where you call and talk to him. You can have a conversation between 4 and 6 pm Pacific time.

So, which do you prefer, Greg?

Greg Koukl: Well, you know, what’s nice about this particular set-up is you and I are interacting, the questions are right there. I don’t have to wait for callers, I don’t have to fill time, but I get to opine, guided by the questions that are being asked and we get to interact, so I think this is easier.

Melinda: You like having somebody to talk to.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, I guess that’s part of it.

Melinda: Even if I don’t respond, I-

Greg Koukl: I know you’re at least listening.

Melinda: You assume so. My eyes are open and they’re in your general direction, so...

Well, let’s go. Excuse me.

Greg Koukl: On that note.

Melinda: Okay, first question has to do with prophecy and I actually hadn’t been aware of this until I looked it up real quickly. Revelation 12, verse 1. So, Carlo3999 says, “Any thoughts on the apparent fulfillment of Revelation 12? With the signs in the sky expected September 23, 2017?” So, I went to look it up to see, well, what are the signs in the sky? Apparently, I went and found this online, Revelation 12 describes a heavenly sign of a woman clothed with the sun at the time of Jesus’ birth. An earlier theory gaining popularity states that the same constellation sign is coming September 23rd, 2017, and not ever again for 100 years. So, this very unusual line-up of the constellation seems to fit the prophecy in Revelation 12:1 and it’s extremely rare, so could this be a sign of the tribulation or could this be the 70th week of the 70 weeks prophecy? So, do you think it’s possible that this would be the fulfillment of Revelation 12:1?

Greg Koukl: Well, it wouldn’t be the 70th week, it would be the beginning of the 69 1/2 week, yeah, we’d be halfway through that week based on some calculations and then have this long, 2,000 year pause from the time of Christ until now. When it comes to prophecy, dealing with the Second Coming, Book of Revelation, my view is broadly whatever’s possible is possible. The irony, and it’s amazing how often this happens, is, about three nights ago, I picked up the book, is it The Christ Comet? The one that JP Moreland was so excited about and this very thorough-going analysis that’s received accolades across the board from very influential people about what the star in Bethlehem actually was, and he thinks it was a comet. And there was some talk about the same thing being described here in Revelations 12, the first couple of verses.

Now personally, when I see this, I don’t see a comet, but apparently a lot of people saw in the figurative language here the idea of a comet coming. So, who knows? I guess it is certainly possible. What’s nice about this particular one is we’ve got about three months and we’ll know for sure, right? Or four months. And I’m glad, by the way, that I’m going bass fishing here before September so I can get at least another good season of bass fishing in in northern Wisconsin before the end comes.

Melinda: So, I mean, what’s your general view about speculation regarding these kind of natural phenomena and fulfilled prophecy?

Greg Koukl: Well, I think that what you have with prophecy is kind of a mixed bag. You have clearly figurative language that is given to describe things. Even this passage, “A great sign appeared in Heaven, a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. And she was with child, and she cried out, being in labor and in pain, to give birth.” Now, I think this could easily be a description of a constellation or a convergence of constellations. But, at the same time, she’s with child, she cries out, being in labor and pain and giving birth, so there’s a lot of figurative language in here, too.

So it’s hard to know how to take that. This could be talking about stars and there’s the moon, and so that is a literal characterization where there’s other figurative things worked in, which happens. I mean, even as a public speaker, seeking to be interesting and colorful, there’ll be a combination of things like that but generally, in the context of the conversation, people are getting the point that I’m making.

So I think we have to be flexible when we look at passages like this, that this could mean a lot of different things. It could be completely metaphorical, it could be half and half, it’s just hard to say. My general approach has been the fulfillment is the final interpretation, and fortunately, in this particular case, we have a date coming up soon that will answer that question for us, but we’ll just have to see.

That’s my best take on it. I don’t spend a lot of time speculating about the Book of Revelation and the reason is is because people have been doing that for 2,000 years and getting it wrong. Now that doesn’t mean there’s not anything worthwhile there but one of the most worthwhile things I think we take away from this is that we win in the end. You know, I mean, that’s the most general conclusion that you can draw. And there is a blessing associated with studying the book. This mystifies me because it seems like, of all books, this is the hardest one.

Melinda: The hardest one to understand.

Greg Koukl: That is the, not only the hardest one to understand, but it’s the one that creates the most controversy and division between people. Curiously, the end of the book and also the beginning of the book, so the first few chapters and the last book.

Melinda: Oh, you mean Genesis, not Revelations.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, Genesis, that’s right. So what you have is you have Genesis, controversy, you got at the very end, a lot of controversy. So we’ll see, you know, how it all turns out but one thing that I know and I, my pastor taught on this over the weekend, as he was talking about Matthew 24 and he’s got a little different view about the Rapture and all that than I do. He believes in the Rapture. I don’t, in the sense that he does but it doesn’t matter because what he did is he finished up his comment by going to one of the verses there at the end of the chapter and cashing out the most important thing.

And what that was, in Verse 42, is, “Therefore, be on the alert for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure this that, if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert, would not allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason, you also be on the alert.” There’s a metaphor, a figure of speech, a comparison, analogy, point being let’s be busy with the marching orders we already have and, if we’re caught by surprise, we’re caught by surprise in a good way, being about the Father’s business. That, to me, is the most important takeaway.

Melinda: Right, next question. “What are ghosts?” What? You were, like, raised your hands up.

Greg Koukl: Oh, it was because I had made a comment about-

Melinda: Brooke’s father.

Greg Koukl: pastor, who is Brooke’s father.

Melinda: Yeah, Brooke, our engineer.

Greg Koukl: So I was just kind of giving kind of a thumbs-up.

Melinda: Oh, okay.

Greg Koukl: What are ghosts?

Melinda: Well, I’m not done. Let me read the whole thing.

Greg Koukl: Oh.

Melinda: “What are ghosts? I know they are real. We had one in my house where I grew up, and I saw and heard her hundreds of times. She was nice.”

Greg Koukl: Well, I don’t doubt that this person experienced something that she thought was a ghost, okay. Generally, a ghost is considered the spirit of a deceased person who has now returned and is making him or herself manifest in some way. Generally, in the lore of ghosts, it’s an individual who had a very tragic demise and hangs around haunting the place because somehow connected to this tragic demise. So there’s different ways to characterize that, but, generally speaking, a ghost is somebody who is the spirit of someone who has died, the ghost of my grandfather, the ghost of my Aunt Gert or whatever.

So, the question then is are those kinds of ghosts possible, and I think it’s pretty clear scripture-wise that this is not, that human beings are, once they pass fully and completely over. I mean, we have near-death experiences, those people in my opinion have not fully passed over because they were able to come back, but there is a point of no return. And, save for a resurrection, they’re not returning and those people are gone for good in terms of our personal experience. We are prohibited from calling upon them. This is in Deuteronomy, I think, 18. This includes praying to saints, by the way. Deuteronomy says, “You do not call on the dead.” Now, why not?

Well, it isn’t because the dead have this ability to help us and we’re not supposed...It’s, I think, because, this is an inference or my conclusion, is because when we call on the dead, we end up conjuring something else that may masquerade as the dead person but end up deceiving us. There’s one exception to this in the Bible and this is in 1 Samuel and Saul conjured up dead Samuel using the witch of Endor. What’s curious about this is it was illegal, obviously, and so he had to shake this gal down and find her and promise to her that he would not prosecute her if she plied her trade. Then, when she did her thing to conjure Saul, Saul came back and scared the wits out of her. That is, she was amazed that it was Saul, I mean, not Saul, I’m sorry, but Samuel came back. So it looked like, gosh, you know, she was surpris-

Melinda: This was something different than what she normally did.

Greg Koukl: Right, right. And so it seems that the reason it’s prohibited is because it’s an occultic practice that gets people trafficking with demons and that’s not a good thing. So that’s why it was condemned and there was a death sentence on it. For somebody to say nowadays we can pray to saints because they’re more alive than we are, this is a equivocation on the word alive. They may be spiritually alive, but they are physically dead and it was the physically dead that we were told not to call on in Deuteronomy.

Melinda: Right. Okay, so, let’s go back, though, so you said there are ghosts but it’s not what this person thought, so what are ghosts?

Greg Koukl: Well, I think any manifestation of a ghost would be a spirit being-

Melinda: A demon.

Greg Koukl: ...who is, exactly-

Melinda: Or a spirit.

Greg Koukl: Well, it would be a spirit being that’s not linked with God, so-

Melinda: I mean, I guess it could be an angel, not just sort of demon, but-

Greg Koukl: Well, if a demon is an angel but he’s a fallen angel-

Melinda: Yes, but I-

Greg Koukl: ...and no angel is going to-

Melinda: I mean like a good angel.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, well, no angel is going to participate in a deceptive enterprise, okay?

Melinda: No, that’s true, right.

Greg Koukl: Only a fallen angel would do that, that would be a demon. So, if a person here is having an experience with a nice ghost, listen, this is a...I’ve heard this tale before. When you start messing with the occult, it never looks nasty, okay?

Melinda: Right.

Greg Koukl: Why should it? They’re going to scare you away if they show their real face. But after you get entrapped by it, then it’s a whole different story. So I think we should take our cues from scripture on this matter and not our cues from what we think are experiences with Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Melinda: There are no benign ghosts or spirits that we encounter. They’re either going to be evil spirits or theoretically it could be a good spirit sent from God, but-

Greg Koukl: Yeah, but we see those things happening, it’s clearly-

Melinda: But demon-

Greg Koukl: ...this is the angel of the Lord came to do a mission.

Melinda: Right, exactly, they announce themselves.

Greg Koukl: They’re messengers, they don’t just play around and sit around, have chats, and spook up your living room for your friends.

Melinda: Exactly. I was just thinking, I mean, for Saul, of all the people he was going to summon from the dead, Samuel? Because Samuel was pretty hard on Saul while he was around-

Greg Koukl: That’s right, that’s right.

Melinda: it’s like, man!

Greg Koukl: And he was hard when he came back.

Melinda: Well, especially doing what you’re not supposed to do.

Greg Koukl: Yeah. He spoke judgment on Saul and Saul was a dead man 24 hours-

Melinda: It’s like wasn’t there enough? You got, you know, didn’t you get enough-

Greg Koukl: Bad news from Samuel-

Melinda: ...bad news from Samuel while he was alive in a body.

Greg Koukl: Well, he was a dead man 24 hours later along with his two sons, which included Jonathan.

Melinda: So he got to go see Samuel. Well, maybe he didn’t see Samuel.

Greg Koukl: You know? But Jonathan suffered, too. That’s when Jonathan died the next day.

Melinda: Yeah, sad.

Greg Koukl: Their bodies were mutilated, hung from the wall of their enemies. It’s terrible.

Melinda: Mm-hmm. That would be terrible.

Next question comes from Daleharmon01. I’m going to give you two minutes for this one. “Why do modern day adherents of Judaism no longer practice animal sacrifices and the other ordinances of the Old Testament?”

Greg Koukl: Well, there’s a very simple, practical reason.

Melinda: That’s why I’m giving you two minutes.

Greg Koukl: There’s no Temple. Yeah, there is no Temple. Once the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, it was...First, Vespasian laid siege and then he got called back to Rome to become emperor and Titus came back and then finished the job and destroyed the city and the Temple. So the cult of worship, the trappings of the religion of Judaism, were gutted with the destruction of the Temple. They could no longer do that and so this destroyed that whole system, basically, and what survived as a kind of rabbinic Judaism that adapted now that they didn’t have a temple.

This is what we have more or less today and a lot of things did change. The question could be asked by what authority did they change? Understandably, in one sense, they say, “Well, we can’t keep doing what we’re supposed to do, because there’s no Temple.” Yeah, but, of course, what we’d like them to see is that maybe there’s a religious significance, a theological significance, to the Temple being destroyed, because not too long before that, the Book of Hebrews was written to show that all of the temple activity had been supplanted now by the finished work of Christ. Therefore, it was no longer necessary. The perfect sacrifice had already been made. So-

Melinda: He fulfilled the Mosaic law.

Greg Koukl: Yes, everything, it was all completed. When he said, “It is finished,” there was a whole lot that was finished. The writer of the book of Hebrews and, if you haven’t read Hebrews, just read it, because, if you’re just cherry-picking, read the whole thing and get the flow of thought. Jesus is superior to the angels, to the Levitical priesthood, to Moses, to the old sacrificial system, Jesus is superior and that’s the point that’s being made.

This is why there’s a passage there in Chapter 10 that I think is often misunderstood, and it says, “If you go on sinning willfully, after receiving a knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin, only a certain terrifying expectation of judgment.” I think the writer of Hebrews there is not talking about if you keep sinning after you become a Christian that Jesus’ blood doesn’t avail for you. For goodness’ sake, we all keep sinning after we’re Christian. Rather, he is announcing the end of the sacrificial system.

If you continue sinning by continuing in that sacrificial system that is now defunct, that Old Testament sacrificial system no longer avails for you. It is no longer efficacious but rather the only thing left for you is judgment. If you set aside the Law of Moses by one or two witnesses, you die, on the testimony of one or two witnesses, you die a merciless death. What happens to those who set aside the Son of God, you know? He has colorful language there, but that’s the point that’s being made. I think that’s the best way to understand that in light of the theology that’s being developed there in the earlier portions of the book.

Melinda: Good. Well, thanks, Greg, that was really helpful.

I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl for Stand To Reason.