Can A Homosexual Go to Heaven?

            As the number of people who openly proclaim their sexual orientation increases, more and more people find themselves knowing someone who is either experiencing same sex attraction (SSA) or is actively participating in a homosexual lifestyle. Since many of these people seem to be kind, gracious, polite, loving, and often professing faith in God or even Christ and the gospel, we find ourselves asking the question: ‘Can a homosexual go to heaven?’  The answer to this question is complex. Some would like to quickly answer ‘no,’ thinking that will help deter SSA and ultimately the behavior itself. Does the Bible permit us to answer ‘no,’ or does the Bible lead us to answer ‘yes?’
           Revelation 21.8 is one of the strongest texts in the New Testament concerning people who will ultimately go to hell.  John the apostle wrote, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (ESV). Notice how John provides a list of various sins or descriptions of sins, all of which according to this verse, will result in punishment in hell—what a scary thought. Notice, he has murderers in the list as well as those who are sexually immoral—certainly homosexuals would fit in that category! But then notice what is included in the last group: “liars!” Wow! Liars. That’s frightening—what person who calls himself a Christian could say, ‘since becoming a Christian I have never lied.’ Ironically, only a liar could unabashedly proclaim such a lie. And John is not the only apostle who gives us a list like this; Paul does the same.
1 Corinthians 6:9–10 is just about as strong a text as Revelation 21.8. Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  In this text, Paul specifically identifies “men who practice homosexuality.” This is very helpful language in understanding this issue. “Men who practice homosexuality” helps us distinguish from those who battle with SSA.  Paul makes it clear that these men (humans) “who practice homosexuality” will not inherit the kingdom of God—but they are not alone in this list. Homosexuals are NOT a special category of sinners. They are included with the greedy, drunkards, swindlers, and adulterers. All guilty of the sins in his list will not be with God when they die. They will all be eternally separated from God. What Christian can say they have never been greedy since becoming a Christian? None. And if they say such a thing, I would suggest they are now guilty of telling a lie.
So then, what is the point of these lists, and how do I reconcile the forgiveness of God that Christ provides through his death, burial, and resurrection? The Apostle John provides us much help in solving this problem. He wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10, ESV).  All Christians continue to struggle with sin—no one is without it. Not only does the blood of Christ cleanse us from former sins, but it continues to cleanse us of our present sins. The text says “all unrighteousness,” which would include all imaginable forms of sexually deviant behavior. But John does not stop there. He continues to write about the Christian’s ongoing struggle with sin. He said, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:8-10).  The evidence of being a true Christian is victory over sin—not sinless perfection—no one achieves that. Even the great Apostle Paul talked about an ongoing battle with sin (see Romans 7:14-25).  It is clear that not everyone who professes to be a Christian is in actuality a Christian (see Matthew 7: 20-23; John 2:24).
Does telling one lie make me a liar? Yes. Does experiencing a moment of lust make me an adulterer? Yes, according to Christ in Matthew 5.28 (And that is why I need Christ’s righteousness so much.) But I don’t’ think that is the point John or Paul is making with their lists. I think each list serves to help us understand that true Christians don’t keep murdering people; they don’t keep lying; they don’t remain greedy all the days of their life.  Could a person who practices homosexuality put their faith in the gospel? Yes. Yes, in the same way a person who is characterized by being a liar could put their faith in the gospel; and in the same way we would expect the liar to become an honest person, we would expect the homosexual to stop practicing homosexuality; and in the same way that we would NOT say that a momentary lapse in integrity would prove the person wasn't truly saved, we also would not say that a lapse in SSA or even sexually deviant behavior would demonstrate the person wasn't saved. We can’t have double standards. We can’t say that practicing homosexuality sends me to hell, but when a Christian young person engages in premarital sex, that is a sin that God forgives.  The Bible is consistent. All sin sends me to hell. And more importantly, all sin can be forgiven, and true Christians are characterized by experiencing victory over sin in varying degrees throughout their lives by the grace of God, through the LORD Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit (see 1 John 4:4; 5:1-4,13,18).          

The Angel of the LORD is Wonderful

This morning as I was preparing for class with my BBA students, I was reading the story of Samson’s birth in Judges 13 and discovered that the angel of the LORD tells Samson’s mother and Manoah (Samson’s father) that his name is ‘wonderful?’ Since I was reading in the ESV, I immediately went to the KJV to see why I had not seen this potential connection to Christ before. I knew that Christ’s name is called Wonderful in Isaiah 9:6.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

And then I discovered that the KJV renders the Hebrew word in this verse with the word ‘secret.’ At this point, I wanted to know why there was a difference between the KJV and the ESV. Wonderful and secret are not the same. So I went to to compare the Hebrews words from Judges 13:18 and Isaiah 9:6. (Use the interlinear navigation link to make this happen.) Here is what I found.  Both Hebrew words derive themselves from the exact same Hebrew word. In Judges 13:18, the word is pil•ē' (an adjective) (H6383) and in Isaiah 9:6 the word is peh'•leh (a noun) (H6382), but both derive their origin from the same Hebrew verb (Strong’s H6381) which means ‘to be marvelous, be wonderful, be surpassing and extraordinary.’

I do not know why the KJV translators chose the word ‘secret’ in Judges 13:18 because the KJV uses the English word ‘wonderful’ to translate the same Hebrew word in Psalm 139:6. I do not know if the translation committee that translated Judges also translated Psalm 139, but every other English translation I could find also uses the word ‘wonderful’ in Judges 13:18. When I compared the two words in the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible), the connection between the two verses is very clear. Let me show you. In Judges 13:8 the word is mirabile and in Isaiah 9:6 the word is Admirabilis. 

Does all this prove that the Angel of the LORD that appeared to Manoah was in fact a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ—of course not—but it certainly gives further evidence that it is possible that these humans witnessed a Christophany. Moreover, the angel of the LORD in Judges 13 leaves the presence of the parents through the flame of fire created by a burnt offering to the LORD. In Exodus 3:2, the Angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in a flame of fire from a bush that was not consumed. Again, this does not prove that the Angel of the LORD was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, but Christ did tell us to search the Scriptures for they testify of me (John 5:29).

Finally, it is interesting to note that the Angel of the LORD ceases to manifest himself to humans after the birth of Christ. In fact, the final reference to ‘the Angel of the LORD’ is found in Zechariah 12:8 where we read ‘and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them.’ One verse later, we read about Israel looking upon ‘him whom they have pierced’ (v. 10). Again, this doesn’t prove anything; however, the fact that the Holy Spirit led Zechariah to include a particular reference to the Angel of the LORD in a chapter that prophetically points to Christ is not an accident.

As a final point, all this serves as just another example of the value in reading more than one English translation for all of us who do not read and write in Hebrew.

Malachi 2:9--The Priests Were Partial in the Law

In Malachi 2:9 specific mention is made concerning the priest being ‘partial in the law’ or ‘partiality in your instruction’ (ESV, NET). In what way this partiality was being manifested is not divulged. Obviously, there were multiple ways from priest to priest. The partiality could have been in the instruction of the law. Thus they were teaching some parts of the Mosaic Law while ignoring other parts or it could have been in the application of the law. In the application of the law, one can imagine a scenario in which the ‘junk’ sacrifice of the rich is acceptable while a poor person brings the same kind of sacrifice to the altar and he is instructed in the law. What is relevant for us today is the way the same thing can occur in a church today. Here are a few possible example for the 21st century:

Faith in Christ is taught, but repentance toward God is never mentioned
Grace is emphasized, but any form of church discipline is completely absent
Smoking is sin, but the preacher’s overeating can be ignored
Homosexuality is the deadly sin, but references to heterosexual adultery are avoided
Jesus is presented as Savior on a regular basis, but his LORDSHIP is missing
Salvation in Christ is preached, but denying oneself and taking up a cross to follow Jesus might offend someone
The LGBT movement is nailed, but heterosexual cohabitation is swept under the pulpit rug
God is fine, but the Creator God who made all things in six days is never mentioned
Being generous to the Salvation Army’s red bucket is encouraged, but instruction in tithing to the local church might turn someone off
God’s love is the constant message, but His abiding wrath against sin simply isn't politically correct anymore
Church attendance is fine, but a formal commitment to a single body of believers led by shepherds who care for your soul seems a bit too much
Adultery is sin, but window shopping is what everyone does…right?
Man’s freewill is emphasized, but God’s Sovereignty is gone
The sin of the rich is ignored, while the sin of the poor is hammered
The existence of Jesus is good, but his exclusivity cannot be tolerated
The Bible contains truth, but it can’t be the single source of revelation from God

Dung in Your Face is an Apologetic for Inspiration of the Bible

The nasty or grotesque picture found in Malachi 2:3 serves as an apologetic, a defense, that the Bible must be the Word of God.  No human author intending upon manufacturing a narrative about a god and his people would include such an abhorrent description of the action of the god against his people as rubbing animal waste, literally ‘crap’, in their faces for their failure to do what was instructed. Malachi writes as a man inspired by God—he is a messenger on a mission from the One True God of the Universe—the LORD of the Hosts. He must say what the LORD tells him to say without regard to the potential fallout of his message. Having dung rubbed in your face is nasty. What were the priests doing that was ‘that bad?’ Read Malachi 2 to discover the issue.

The Immigrant Problem and Debate in America--What side should I choose?

As I was reading the Word of God this morning from Deuteronomy I was once again confronted (yesterday, I was confronted from Malachi—see my podcast below) from the Bible concerning the immigration debate we are having in America.  What side would the Bible have me to choose? Laying aside political parties and pragmatic issues for a moment, I want to ask—what does the Bible say to Christians today concerning the 11 million immigrants in America today?

In Deuteronomy 10 Moses is preaching to Israel. In his sermon text Moses reminds Israel that the LORD God of Israel executes justice for the orphan, widow and loves the resident foreigner, giving him food and clothing (v. 18). Then Moses commands every Israelite to love the resident foreigner because there was a day, in the not so distant past, when the Jew he was speaking to or his parents were resident foreigners in Egypt. A resident foreigner is an immigrant. The Jews migrated to Egypt because of a famine.

Now we can have the conversation concerning the reality that Israel did not enter Egypt illegally but instead received Pharaoh’s blessing to enter the land. However, the point of the text is not legal or illegal immigrant. The point of the text (Deut. 10:18) is God loves and cares for immigrants like he loves and cares for widows and orphans and so should I!

Consider the "One Another's" in the New Testament

There are over 50 specific references to doing something with 'one another' in the New Testament and nearly all of them relate to the church. (1 Corinthians 7:5 instructs husbands and wives not deprive one another of marital intimacy.) As you look at each one of these imperatives consider how obvious it is that Christ and His Apostles intended for Christians to be in a church, an assembly of believers, where each of these "one another's" can be lived out.

• Love one another (John 13:34, 15:12, 17, Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9)
• Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:16)
• Do not pass judgment on one another (Rom. 14:13)
• Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 15:5)
• Welcome one another (Rom. 15:7)
• Instruct one another (Rom. 15:14)
• Greet one another (Rom. 16:6, 1 Cor. 16:20, 2 Cor. 13:12, 1 Pet. 5:14)
• Wait for one another (1 Corinthians 11:33)
• Care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
• Comfort one another (2 Corinthians 13:11)
• Agree with one another (2 Cor. 13:11)
• Serve one another (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10)
• Bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2)
• Be kind one to another (Eph. 4:32)
• Forgive one another (Eph. 4:32)
• Sing to one another (Eph. 5:19)
• Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
• Be honest with one another (Colossians 3:9)
• Admonish one another (Col. 3:16)
• Abound in love for one another (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
• Encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11, Heb. 10:25)
• Build one another up (1 Thess. 5:11)
• Do good to one another (1 Thess. 5:15)
• Increase in love one for another (2 Thessalonians 1:13)
• Exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13)
• Provoke one another to good works (Heb. 10:24)
• Do not speak evil against one another (James 4:11)
• Do not grumble against one another (Jam. 5:9)
• Confess sins one to another (Jam. 5:16)
• Pray for one another (Jam. 5:16)
• Love one another earnestly (1 Peter 1:22)
• Keep loving one another (1 Pet. 4:8)
• Show hospitality one to another (1 Pet. 4:9)
• Be humble one to another (1 Pet. 5:5)
• Love one another (1 John 3:11, 23, 4:7, 11; 2 John 5)

Christ Our Passover

1 Corinthians 5:7
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

The Passover is a Jewish holiday beginning on the 14th of Nisan [March/April], commemorating the Hebrews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, and memorializing the day the death Angel passed over (Exodus 12:23) every house that had blood from the paschal lamb applied to the doorposts and lintels [above the doorway] of the home (see Exodus 12).

How is Christ our Passover? How is the Jewish Passover a foreshadowing of Christ and the Lord’s Supper? The chart below seeks to compare and contrast the Passover (or paschal lamb) and the Lamb of God (Christ, our Passover) and the Passover (the meal established by Moses) and the Lord’s Supper (ordained by Christ).

To see the chart click the link below.