JOHN: Welcome to all of you who are here tonight for our question and answer time. We had a wonderful morning, didn’t we, worshiping the Lord and opening His Word, and listening to the incredibly beautiful music of Christmas with The Master’s University folks. Now we’re going to have a time for you to ask whatever question’s on your mind. We have some agents who are going down to the microphones. They’re going to help you process yourself a little bit tonight so we get to the questions. If you have a question, all you need to do is find your way to a microphone. We’ll start in the middle. The one requirement is give me your name so I know who I’m talking to.
QUESTIONER: Well, good morning and good evening, John. It’s Anna Sanders.
JOHN: Hi, Anna.
QUESTIONER: On behalf of women, young women – young married women with children, and it’s about your series that you have been doing about the rapture. So some of the ladies in my Every Woman’s Grace Group and seminary wives have approached me, and I think I know the answer might be in your little book that I love Safe in the Arms of God, but I’m not sure. So here’s the question, and they would appreciate your answer to this question with some verses to support it if you have them. And if anybody would have them, you would.
So the question is, where there is a dilemma faced by mother of young children when they pray for the return of Christ, which we’re excited to do, but they’re conflicted. So they want to know, will their young children be raptured with her? They’re born again, but their little two-year-old, three-year-old, and four-year-old are still – they don’t understand repentance yet. Do you know what I mean?
JOHN: Yeah, that’s a very good question, and it’s a question that comes up, has come up frequently through the years. And the simple answer is the Bible doesn’t talk about it. It doesn’t say anything about it. We could assume that since those little ones belong to the Lord that they go to heaven; but we cannot narrow that down to just the children of Christian moms or just the children of Christian families, because Scripture doesn’t say anything about that. So we’re sort of left to, I guess, maybe extend the whole idea that the little ones belong to the Lord.
You know, I would lean toward the idea that the Lord would gather the little ones to Himself in that hour rather than leave them to the day of the Lord. But that would be based only upon the general reference to the fact that our Lord said in Mark chapter 10, “Permit the little ones to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” So if, in fact, before they reach an age of accountability where they can either accept or reject the Lord, they are a part of His kingdom, then it might be reasonable conjecture to assume that the Lord is not going to take the saints out and leave the world full of little children who are orphaned.
But even beyond the little children of the saints, if all little children belong to Him before they reach the age of accountability, one could assume that maybe He’s going to gather them all up to Himself rather than leave them for the judgments in the day of the Lord. But that’s only a reasonable conjecture; we don’t have a specific testimony of Scripture. However, what you said about the book Safe in the Arms of God, all of those statements of truth in the Bible that says, “The Lord takes care of the little ones,” could be applied to that judgment event.
QUESTIONER: Excellent. Thank you.
JOHN: You’re welcome. Thank you. To my left.
QUESTIONER: Merry Christmas. I know of a pastor –
JOHN: What’s your name?
JOHN: Christian, I got it.
QUESTIONER: I know of a pastor whom, you know, like a friend to me, for years have preached that, you know, a believer could lose their salvation.
JOHN: I’m having a very hard time hearing you, so you need to speak really clearly to me.
QUESTIONER: All right.
JOHN: I’m sure it’s my fault, so help me.
QUESTIONER: No, I’m a little bit nervous, that’s why, so I’ll try to be clear. So a pastor whom I know for many years ago loves the Lord, but the only thing is he preaches that, you know, a believer could lose their salvation. And for years to this day actually he preaches that. So is it even possible that he is a believer?
JOHN: Yeah. No, I understand the question. This is a pastor who loves the Lord, served the Lord for years, preaches that a believer can lose salvation, can that pastor be a true believer? The answer is, of course, of course he can be a true believer. But there are a lot of true believers with bad theology. As long as their theology is right about their sin and right about the gospel and right about salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, they can have other errors in their theology. And I’ll give you a classic illustration.
I mean, you’re over there with Mark Zakovich, and he can tell you from his own experience, having come from a former Soviet Union, that historically the idea that you can lose your salvation was the foundational understanding of the whole Russian evangelical church. They all believed you could lose your salvation.
Many, many times when I went there, I spent hours and hours and hours with leaders. I remember being in Belarus, being in a former Communist military camp, at a pastors’ conference, and we were there for three or four days in the barracks; and I was teaching a lot of things from the Word of God. But they kept coming back to the fact that they wanted me to know that I was wrong to think you couldn’t lose your salvation, that you can lose your salvation. So one evening I gave a long lesson on how you cannot lose your salvation. In the first place, it’s eternal life. And Romans 8, “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, nothing at all,” Paul says.
So the leaders of that group, after I finished – that spent all night. They didn’t go to sleep, I went to sleep. I slept like a baby, I had my theology right. They stayed up all night, and they were – by morning they had a whole list of questions and Bible passages that I needed to answer. Now these are precious pastors. These are men who were persecuted for the faith, some of them imprisoned in Siberia for the faith. These are people who love the Lord, who stood firmly against the Communist powers and Communist government for Christ. So, yes, there are many Christians who don’t have a full understanding of sound doctrine, but they are true believers.
Again, this all starts because you have a faulty idea of salvation, and that is that it’s something that you have to hang onto, rather than it’s something from God that He hangs onto. Your security, never in Scripture is your security tied to your ability to hang on, it’s always tied to the promise and power of God. But sometimes when that’s a very traditional doctrine that’s been around a long time, people give it up less easily.
And I think in the case of the people in Russia, what they saw when the Communist Revolution came and what they saw when persecution came against believers was that many people who profess to be believers walked away. And so one explanation is that they were never saved, and they demonstrated they were never saved, like 1 John 2, “They went out from us because were not of us.” But their interpretation of that was they walked away from salvation, they walked away from eternal life; but they were true believers.
So I think true believers can believe you can lose your salvation, even though they can’t. Okay? So they have a better theology than they actually know. They are secure even if they don’t think so. And that’s the goodness of God. Good question. Okay.
QUESTIONER: Hi, John.
QUESTIONER: My name is Richard Razor.
JOHN: Yes. Hi, Richard.
QUESTIONER: Thank you for your faithfulness to God, to His Word, and for your expository care for us these many, many years.
I’ve heard expressions in churches, things like, “God put on my heart to get you a little gift,” and, “God led me to pray for you today.” Don’t these common phrase expressions sound genuine and innocent enough? But this same pattern can continue and progress on to expressions like, “God put on my heart to buy a new car,” or things like that. Question: if the later is clearly bogus, wouldn’t the former be equally presumptuous? Thank you.
JOHN: Yeah, I think it’s a slippery slope, Richard, I really do. If you start saying things like, “The Lord put it on my heart to do this and do that,” how do you know that? How do you know that? How do you know that was the Lord? That’s a dangerous category to operate in.
Maybe the Lord does want you to have a new car. Maybe He wants you to have an old car. Maybe He wants you to walk. Maybe He wants to make Uber successful. But whatever it is, you’re not going to know that, you don’t have access to that. You don’t have access to His will. I think it’s better to say, “Having considered all the options, I think I need a car,” or, “Because I care about you, I want to buy you a gift.”
I think we do play very fast and loose with attributing things to God. And it might be harmless at some point to say, “Well, the Lord put you on my heart, and so I prayed for you.” That’s possible. That is possible that the Lord brought someone to mind that you needed to pray for.
But again, how do you know that that was actually the Lord? You don’t have a red light on your head that goes on when it’s the Lord and stays off when it’s just you. You don’t have any mechanism to know that. And so, I think you have to be careful with that kind of language, particularly in the evangelicalism of our time, when so many charismatic people have pushed that to an absolutely extreme point where they try to defend everything they do as if God has led them to do this, when in fact they don’t know that.
We don’t have direct revelation from God. The Spirit of God leads us. I believe the Spirit of God prompts our heart. But I only know that in retrospect. I only know that looking back and saying, “Wow, look what happened when I went there,” or, “Look what happened when I did this.” I never know that on the frontend of anything.
I mean, just that interview that I did on Wednesday with Ben Shapiro; if you were to say to me, “Are you going to do that?” I wouldn’t say, “Well, the Lord put it on my heart to do that.” I don’t know that. I said, “I think it’s a good opportunity. I’d like to meet him, I’d like to have a conversation. I think I want to do that.” In retrospect, I look back and say, “What a great opportunity for me to present the gospel.” I didn’t know what the conversation was going to be like.
So I think it’s better to wait until you see the unfolding providence of God in anything in your life, and look back and give God the glory for what came out of that. And that’s how His providence works. We don’t know that going in on the frontend.
Thanks, Richard. Thanks for your faithfulness, too, my friend. Right in the middle.
QUESTIONER: Hi, John.
QUESTIONER: My name is Peace Ekaduba. This is my question. Understanding and agreeing that social justice –
JOHN: What’s your first name?
JOHN: Peace. You’re one of our new members.
QUESTIONER: Yeah, I am.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
JOHN: I’ve been working all afternoon trying to pronounce your name.
QUESTIONER: I think you’ve got it. Thank you. But in understanding and agreeing that social justice isn’t the gospel from your series earlier this year, my question is, how should a person of color, like myself or anyone else in the church, actively respond and react to different issues of justice in a democratic society in regards to police brutality cases proven to be true affecting me and communities around me while still staying true and prioritizing the saving gospel?
JOHN: Yeah, really good question, Peace. And what a wonderful name.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
JOHN: You have to stay out of trouble just because of your name.
QUESTIONER: I do.
JOHN: Your mother and father were very wise. Look, what we don’t want to do is overcategorize groups of people. We don’t want to overgeneralize, whether we’re talking about people of color, or whether we’re talking about White people, whether we’re talking about Latin people, or whether we’re talking about police, or whether we’re talking about governmental authorities or whatever we’re talking about; I think as Christians, we desire to uphold justice.
You know, when you look at 2 Samuel, you look at the book of Exodus, particularly the book of Exodus when Moses was going to select leaders, they had to be just and righteous, and not take a bribe. And in 2 Samuel, if you’re going to be a ruler you had to fear God. You had the fear of God as well as be just and righteous.
I think we have a right to expect that in society from our leaders. Government exists to, according to Romans 13, to punish evildoers and protect those who do good. I’m talking about temporal good, well-behaved citizens. We don’t live in a perfect society, far from it. This is not a theocracy, this is not a kingdom with God ruling. This is a broken, fallen world under the power of Satan.
But I think the danger in all of these things is that we tend to label groups of people and generalize, and I think that’s unfair. There are people who have a heart of compassion for those who suffer, there are some people who are indifferent to suffering, but they’re not identified by their color or by their race or by their economic status. I think we have to be very careful about that. There are troublemakers of every stripe and of every kind. There are leaders in our government who are corrupt and there are leaders in our government who do the best they can to be honest. There are police, and I think for the majority of them, they do the best they can to serve us in the way that they’re expected to serve us; and there are renegades at that level as well.
So I think as a believer, I don’t want to be in a position where I am blanketly condemning any group of people, or any class of people, or any profession. I want to give honor to righteousness where it exists, and I want to confront evil where it exists. But it has to be personal and identifiable. And I think the reason we have conflict in our country is we have one group of people shouting at another group of people in huge generalities that create guilt beyond where guilt should be legitimately identified.
So I just think to be peacemakers. And we’re to live quiet, peaceable lives; that’s what Scripture says, that submit ourselves to the authorities. We need to understand there’s injustice, we get that. Christians are persecuted around the world; that’s really injustice. You see what’s happening in Africa; Christians are being killed and slaughtered over there, churches are being attacked and assaulted. But we don’t retaliate as Christians. We don’t start revolutions, we don’t do protests, we don’t try to tear down the government; we submit, commit ourselves, like Jesus did, to a faithful Creator, and live out righteous lives in our society.
I think for a Christian, personally you have to confront injustice. And where there’s a lack of mercy and a lack of compassion and a lack of understanding, or where there’s racism or anything else, as Christians, those are all sins. They need to be dealt with in our hearts, and they need to be confronted. But you don’t want to jump on the sort of identity bandwagons that tear the fabric of culture apart. And certainly you don’t want that in the church. Okay? Does that help?
QUESTIONER: Yeah. Thank you.
JOHN: You’re welcome, Peace. Thank you. Welcome to Grace Church. Where are we? Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Brandon and I’m a student at UCLA.
QUESTIONER: My question is, could you clarify the roles of the persons of the Trinity and prayer? And is there a biblical basis to pray to the Holy Spirit or Jesus?
JOHN: Yeah. The question is, “Clarify the role of the Trinity.” That’s a little beyond my paygrade. The Trinity is an impossible, divine, incomprehensible reality; it’s beyond my ability to grasp fully. But I can explain the answer to your question with regard to prayer, how are we to think about the Trinity.
I think Scripture gives us every right to pray to every member of the Trinity. I don’t think there are any limitations. In fact, you can find illustrations in the Bible of praying to the Father. There are clear words: “Pray to the Father in My name,” from the Son; and that’s in John’s gospel in the upper room. And then you have a statement made by the apostle Paul in Romans 8 about how the Holy Spirit is making groanings, which are unutterable, before the Father on behalf of His will for us. And we are told to pray in the Spirit – capital S. So I don’t think there’s any limitations.
We can worship the Holy Spirit, and must. We worship the Son, and must. We worship the Father, and we must do that. We worship the triune God; we honor the triune God. We have a right to speak to every member of the Trinity, to give worship to every member of the Trinity, and even to cry out to each member of the Trinity. I don’t think there are any limitations at all in Scripture that would cause us to have some kind of necessary pecking order or hierarchy that we have to work through. I think we worship and we fellowship with and we pray to each member of the Trinity without limit. Okay?
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
JOHN: Good question.
QUESTIONER: My name is Joey.
JOHN: Hi, Joey.
QUESTIONER: Considering a world full of pain and suffering and the very real possibility of a turn of health for many, why should a believer bring a child into this world?
JOHN: Why should a believer bring a child into this world, because of the ultimate existential possibility that that child could end up in hell, right? I mean, that’s the essence of that question. That is a question that has been pondered by Christians through the ages. The answer to the question is simply that the Lord says, “Be fruitful and” – what? – “multiply, and fill the earth, for His glory, for His glory.”
Now that poses a very interesting issue. You have no guarantee that the child you bring into the world is going to become a believer. But I do believe that any child that comes into the world in the end, one way or another will bring glory to God. It may be the glory of God fulfilled in the manifestation of even His wrath. It may be the glory of God fulfilled in the manifestation of His grace. But we do have this promise in Scripture, that if you bring up a child in the way he should go, when he’s old he will not depart from it.
And the whole idea of having children for believers is to pass righteousness from one generation to the next. You don’t want to become too fatalistically existential about children; you want to, as a believing couple, you want to say, “We are called by God to pass righteousness to the next generation.” We do that by having children and raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and praying for their salvation, and working the gospel into their lives; for the sake of their salvation, we put our trust in God that His purpose will be accomplished.
I think you can’t control destiny anyway, you are not in charge of ultimate ends of any creatures, any humans. So you’re not going to alter the ultimate plan of God, the ultimate purpose of God. But in His plan, particularly believers are to raise godly children. Paul writes to Timothy and says, “Look, women are saved through childbearing, saved from the stigma of having led the human race into the curse in the garden.” They’re saved from that stigma through childbearing if they bring them up in holiness and godliness.
So what you need to think about when you’re going to have a child is that having the child is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment to bring that child to the knowledge of Christ. In a very real sense, you are creating your most intimate mission field. You’re having children not so that you can show off your babies in their latest fashion, you’re having children so that you can pass righteousness to the next generation, so that you can be a part of another voice being added to the hallelujah chorus in glory. And the Scripture is full of promises from God to faithful parents. God’s blessing will fall on those faithful parents.
So this is God’s plan and God’s purpose. But God always accomplishes His purpose through faithful people. So you don’t want to think about it as some kind of fatalist and say, “I’m going to have a baby because I want a baby, and whatever God wants to do with that kid He can do.” You rather want to say, “We’re going to have a child and we’re going to pour our lives into that child for the glory and honor of God,” and God will honor that commitment.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Pastor John.
QUESTIONER: My name is Arno Bubbagenia –
JOHN: Hi, Arno.
QUESTIONER: from Crossroads. So my question is this: according to your interview, do you think Benjamin Aaron Shapiro will be ready to receive Jesus Christ as his Messiah?
JOHN: You know, he has a YouTube video that I watched a couple of weeks ago: “Why I don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah.” And I understand that. I obviously do believe Jesus is the Messiah and the Savior. What was wonderful about the interview with him was he made it clear to me that he doesn’t believe that. He’s a Jew, he’s orthodox; I have much respect for him. And I even told him, “I see the image of God in you, in the clarity of your thinking and the compassion of your heart, in the sense of morality, in your commitment to the family and to children, and to what is right. I see the image of God in you.”
So he said to me at the end of the discussion, he said, “So what’s the difference between you and me?” I said, “Well, the difference isn’t moral, because the same God who laid down His law in the Old Testament is the same God who wrote the New Testament, didn’t change His mind. So morality and ethics don’t change; it’s the same God. We have the same standards, but the difference between you and me is Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ.”
And I just kept talking about Jesus Christ. And I talked about the fact that the Old Testament had a sacrificial system, and it all came to an end at the crucifixion of Christ when the temple veil was rent from the top to the bottom, and God ripped the temple, and through the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies opened because there was no more priesthood. And the reason there’s no more sacrificial system today was that Jesus was the final sacrifice, God’s chosen Lamb, paid for the sins of His people; and that’s the difference, it’s Jesus Christ. That’s all I can do is say that. And I’m more than content to pray that in the kindness and grace of the Lord He might open his heart to that.
There are people who are not sure what they believe; he’s not one of them. He’s very sure what he believes, and I have great respect. He’s a very gracious guy, very kind to me. But that’s the Lord’s business. So I did get an opportunity to talk about Isaiah 53 in detail, and that that was all fulfilled in Jesus, and that if he really were to understand Isaiah 53 he would see that it was Jesus.
We talked afterwards, he said, “The rabbis have another view of that.” I said, “Sure, I know that. But I happened to write a book on the right view,” and I gave it to him, The Gospel According to God. So we’ll see.
A very, very fine young man, and very gracious to me. He didn’t have to be as gracious to me as he was, and he could have been adversarial, but he was very thoughtful. And I trust that he’ll get an opportunity maybe to read that.
And you know, what you want to do when you give the gospel to someone who’s pretty well-bolted down, you just want to loosen the bolts. It’s not that you’re going to have some kind of revolutionary response instantaneously with someone, but you need to create maybe the reality that this could be true; and then there’s a little bit of a door. So we’ll see what the Lord would do. And I would be more than happy to follow that conversation with him up anytime.
QUESTIONER: Hello, Pastor. It’s a privilege to be asking you this question first. But I’m not asking for myself, I’m asking on behalf of a friend. And the question is on forgiveness, and as an ultimate virtue and the possible conditions on forgiveness.
So in one of your sermons you say that we should forgive as God forgives unconditionally, and that He requires repentance and restitution. But when I read 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess with our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It seems that He only forgives if we ask for forgiveness, and Luke 17:3 says that if someone asks us, then we forgive. How do I reconcile these passages with forgiving unconditionally?
JOHN: So let me ask you this: have you confessed to God every sin you’ve ever committed?
QUESTIONER: Oh, wait.
JOHN: No, you haven’t.
QUESTIONER: No. Yeah, yeah.
JOHN: Because you don’t even know a lot of them.
JOHN: So are those that you didn’t confess not forgiven? No, of course not; they’re all forgiven. So what you have in 1 John is simply a pattern of life. Literally in the original – if we are confessing our sins, He is forgiving our sins. This simply talks about the relationship that a believer has with the Lord, which is a relationship of open confession and full forgiveness. It’s not down to every single solitary sin transactionally has to be brought up before God or it doesn’t get forgiven; that just would put us all in dire jeopardy.
So taking that and moving back to your question, I still believe that the Lord, whether we confess our sins in specifics, all of them, or leave some out, forgives them all. So it’s safe to say the Lord forgives sins we never confess, right? Okay. So when you’re talking about relationships, do you have the right to withhold love and kindness and mercy and grace and forgiveness from someone who has not asked you to forgive them some sin that they committed against you? No. The magnanimous thing is to simply say, as a general heart attitude, “I forgive. I forgive.” It doesn’t have to be transactional.
Now having said that, the relationship is not likely to be fully restored until the person you’ve already forgiven comes back and wants to make it right. Now that’s not always the case, because look, there are people who sin against us. I mean, people sin against me or against Patricia. We don’t say, “Okay, that’s the end of those people. Until they show up, you know, on their knees and plead forgiveness, they’re not going to be part of our life.” You don’t do that. You just overlook a transgression, because love covers a multitude of sins. You just overlook those things, and you fully embrace those people and you treat them with love and kindness and forgiveness, otherwise you’re just accumulating bitterness.
Forgiveness is unconditional in that sense that it’s freely given; and it does the most good to the person who forgives. Otherwise you’re going to go through life just holding grudges in every direction; and that makes no sense. I’ve lived long enough life to have accumulated a lot of, I suppose you could say unfair or unkind assaults and attacks; they’re pretty common. I don’t hold grudges on those. If I have an opportunity to do good to those persons who have acted toward me in that way I would choose to do that every single time. My heart is full of forgiveness, because I don’t want to live with bitterness. And I’m not waiting for everybody to show up and explain to me why they did this to me. That’ll put you in a loony bin. You’ll be impossible to live with. You’ll isolate yourself from every human relationship if everybody who crosses you has to go through some transactional event to get you to forgive them.
So I think that’s how the Lord forgives us even for things we don’t even know we’ve done against Him. And that’s just a general expression of His love; and it has to be the same with us. Okay?
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
JOHN: Good question.
QUESTIONER: Hello, Pastor John.
QUESTIONER: My name is Andrew.
JOHN: Hi, Andrew.
QUESTIONER: And I have a question on the first seven days of creation in Genesis.
JOHN: On what?
QUESTIONER: The first seven days of creation in Genesis.
JOHN: Sure. Six days.
QUESTIONER: Sure. Seventh day God rested. So Genesis 1:14 through 19 describes how God made the sun, moon, and stars on Day Four of creation, and then He put them in the sky for signs, seasons, days, and years. A day scientifically is defined as the rotation of the earth around its axis one time. So before Day Four there was no sun, so you wouldn’t have what we think of today as a day. So can you shine some light on what this means, what this means from – like other passages in Scripture on what a day is?
JOHN: Well, a day is one cycle that you just described of the earth rotation, right? That’s a day, morning and evening. Your question, of course, is that you don’t have the creation of the sun at the very beginning, so you have to have a day without a sun, right?
JOHN: That is the question. And my answer is, okay, you have a day without a sun. I don’t see that as a problem. You don’t have until verse 14 the actual lights – the sun and the moon – and yet you have three days of creation leading up to that. So you have light then, the existence of light without a sun and without a moon. That simply means that light existed. It existed in some form that was consistent with a single rotation of the earth. In the beginning of Genesis, “Let there be light,” there was light.
Now light is not the body from which it is reflected. The light is not the sun, and light is not the moon, light is light. Light was created, and darkness was created also on the first day. So there was light and darkness without the celestial bodies. There was still light; there was still darkness and light; there was still morning, there was still evening. That’s as far as I can take it.
But again, I think it’s so explicit that God is intending to communicate to us this actual one rotation of the earth kind of cycle that we know as morning and evening. The phenomenon itself doesn’t have to be explained scientifically for what reason, because creation cannot be explained scientifically. To help you with that, when scientists try to explain creation, they are trying to do the impossible, because there is no scientific explanation for creation. Let me tell you why.
Once there was only God and there was nothing. And then instantaneously there was light. And then there was water. Then there was heaven. Then there was dry land. Then there were plants. Then there were celestial bodies. Then there were living creatures. And then there were humans. And that all happened in six days. There is no scientific explanation for that. Anybody who thinks you could explain that scientifically is out of their mind. Nothing existed, and then the entire universe came into existence in six days. That is a divine miracle.
There is no scientific explanation for the resurrection of Lazarus. You don’t have scientists trying to give us a scientific explanation of how Lazarus came to life. There’s no scientific explanation for that. There’s no scientific explanation for the resurrection of anybody, including our Lord. There’s no scientific explanation for Jesus creating food to feed probably twenty thousand people, there’s no scientific explanation for that.
Science is out of the discussion when you have a miracle, and the most massive miracle was the creation of the entire universe in six days; that has no scientific explanation. So to pose a question into the first chapter of Genesis about the science of it is alien to the entire event itself. You start with nothing, and ex nihilo, out of nothing comes everything by the massive power of God. That’s all we need to know. And if God says it was evening and morning, it was equal to the rotation of that one cycle that’s so familiar to us. If it was equal to that then, even before those bodies existed, then that’s exactly what God intended us to understand. Okay? Good question.
QUESTIONER: Good evening, Mr. MacArthur. My name is Esteban. My question is regarding the nature of Christ’s incarnate nature. Given that in Philippians chapter 2, verse 8, Paul writes, “Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” I ask this because I find it rather difficult engaging what He emptied Himself of.
In Luke 2:51 it said that Christ is learning. Yet in Mark 2:8, when Christ heals the paralytic He was able to immediately perceive the doubts of the scribes surrounding Him. So are Christ’s powers self-productive or are they given to Him from God the Father? And have I overlooked anything in the meaning of “emptied Himself”?
JOHN: Really good question, Estibon, thank you. Christ did empty Himself, because that’s what it says. That’s the kenosis, the doctrine of the self-emptying. He could not have emptied Himself of His deity because He would have gone out of existence, right? That’s who He is. He is still God in human flesh.
He says, “You’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” He says, “No one needs to tell Me what’s in the heart of man, I know what’s in the heart of man.” In the gospel of John He recognizes Nathanael whom He’s never met, because He’s omniscient. He creates life; He heals diseases; He gives people back limbs that function. So never does it intend to mean that He set aside His deity and became something less than God.
So in what sense does He empty Himself? I think it’s simple to understand in one way: He emptied Himself of the personal prerogative to use all of His attributes. He limited Himself. We were talking this morning about the fact that He says, “Not even the Son of Man knows the day of His return, only the Father knows.” That is one of the limitations He put on Himself. So in emptying Himself He put a limitation on His omniscience, He put a limit on what He knew. He put a limit on what He knew, and that’s why He grew in wisdom and knowledge, in stature, favor with God and man.
Put a limit on Himself physically. Clearly, He was an infant in a womb; He was a baby in a manger; He was a child in a home. Still God, truly God, and all God, and fully God, truly God, but imposing upon Himself limitations. But that is the way to understand the kenosis.
And He limited one other thing, and that is He limited the expression of His own will, and He said, “I only do what the Father tells Me to do. I only do what the Father does. I only do what the Father shows Me to do. I only do what the Father wants Me to do.” So He has limited His omniscience, what He knows; He has limited His omnipotence, only to that which the Father wills for Him to do; He also limits His own volition, and He limits Himself to what the Holy Spirit wants to do. That’s why when they said He was empowered by Satan, Jesus said, “That is an unpardonable sin, because you have attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. To accuse Me of operating under the power of Satan is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, because I’ve operating under the power of the Holy Spirit.”
So He limited Himself in His knowledge, He limited Himself in His power, He limited Himself in the expression of His volition to only what the Holy Spirit wanted to do. And so, to basically accuse Jesus of being satanic was blaspheming the Holy Spirit who was at work in Him.
You see something of this self-emptying in particular in the garden when He is sweating as it were great drops of blood, and He says, “Father, if it’s Your will, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.” So He had limited His own volition, His own will.
So that’s how to understand the self-emptying of Christ. And it’s a mysterious understanding at best, because He still knew things that only God could know, like knowing Nathanael before He ever met him; like knowing what was in the heart of man, John 2; like knowing the future, like predicting future events, like predicting that the temple would be destroyed, “Not one stone upon another,” and that happened thirty years later. Predicting the future, the day of the Lord, the promise of His second coming, you see His omniscience. You see His omnipotence, glimpses of it, in creating food, walking on water, overpowering demons. And you even see an expression of His own will in this sense. He said, “No man takes My life from Me, I lay it down of Myself.”
So He did exercise His own omniscience, He did exercise His own omnipotence, He did exercise His own volition and His own will, but in limited ways. And that is the way to understand the self-emptying. It wasn’t His nature that He divested Himself of, it was that He limited the full expression of who He was. Does that help?
JOHN: Good question.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Pastor MacArthur. My name is Dillon.
JOHN: Hi, Dillon.
QUESTIONER: Just wanted to say thank you for your faithfulness to God’s Word, and your steadfastness in contending for the truth. I was saved by the Lord under your preaching, so thank you.
JOHN: Thank you, Dillon.
QUESTIONER: My question goes along the lines of what Ben Shapiro mentions but he doesn’t let us watch at the end of the interview, because you have to be a member or a subscriber to his show.
JOHN: It’ll cost you ten bucks to get that answer.
QUESTIONER: Yeah. Well, I had the question before he did that, so.
QUESTIONER: It was just along the lines of your thoughts on the universal church as well as the local church here. And in America what you kind of foresee, if you will, in the sense of persecution and, you know, the bill that they just tried to pass AB-9, or AB-2943. And I – it’s kind of two-fold. But how much time should we spend looking into the things that are going on around the world in regards to Israel and Jerusalem and India and China, especially for like a newer believer?
JOHN: Well, you’ve asked a lot.
QUESTIONER: Sorry. Sorry.
JOHN: Yeah. I thought it was really interesting that he – he asked the question, “What do you think the state of Christianity is? What’s the state of the church? How do you feel about the evangelical church?” And I can’t remember everything I said, and I don’t know that I want to watch it again, because I second-guess myself and say, “Why didn’t I say that? And why did I say that? And I could have done better than that.” So it’s a little painful.
So I don’t remember everything I said. But I did say this, that the Lord will build His true church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. The true church is going to be the true church. But Christianity as such is in dire trouble. And even true believers have in many ways seriously compromised the testimony of Christianity.
You know, we were all, I think, sort of happy when scandals in the Catholic Church broke out fifteen years ago, or ten years ago. And now we’ve got as many scandals in the quote-unquote “evangelical” church as there are in the Catholic Church. Maybe it’s not the degree of pedophilia, multiple centuries of it; but there are some issues. And my answer to him was, “Look, the church is always in trouble when it chases the culture, chases the culture and it leaves its message behind.” That is of concern to me.
I’m not worried about the persecuted church, that’ll purify the church. I don’t think we need to give help to those that are being persecuted. I think they’re going to be fine, because persecution drives out hypocrites. Nobody’s going to die for something it don’t really believe, right? You’re not going to go get burned at the stake for something you don’t believe. You’re going to say, “Okay, I don’t believe. Okay, I don’t want to die, I’m a fake.”
So persecution purifies the church. And I think the more persecution that would come on the church in America, the more the church would be purified. I think the harder it is to be a legitimate Christian, the more likely we are to know who is a Christian.
When Ben asked me about the Reformation and how the Reformation descended into the Enlightenment, I said, “Basically when they decided to do what the Roman Catholic Church did and baptize all the babies and make everybody a Christian by baptism, when the Reformers did the same thing and brought infant baptism and baptized everybody in the country so that everybody would be a Christian, then we didn’t know who was a Christian. And that basically weakened the church disastrously and led to an abandonment of that formalized religion and the enlightenment which was basically an escape from religion into the worship of human reason – Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, and so forth.
So I don’t think persecution harms the church, I think persecution purifies the church. I’m not advocating it, I’m not asking for it, but I think it’s a purifying reality. I think as long as Christianity has a kind of cultural popularity, it compromises people.
In fact, one of the questions that Ben asked me was, “Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to alienate the democrats because of things you say? You said the democratic party is the anti-God, anti-morality party. Don’t you think you’ll alienate democrats?” And I said, “Look, my job is to alienate everyone, everyone. Everyone has to know that they are all alienated from God, and they need to know the reality of their sin, and they need to face the evidence that this has eternal consequences.”
So I think one of the problems when Christianity’s comfortable is it’s not honest about its message, because it wants to be comfortable. So I think as times are more difficult for the Christian church, there’s a purifying of the church.
Again, I don’t think the government can save us. I wrote a book by that title I think – didn’t I, Honey? – Why Government Can’t Save You. The government can’t save the church, the government can’t save Christianity, the government can only tamper with it.
So I don’t really worry about what’s going on in the world; the true church will be the true church. But I am concerned that the true church, even though they are redeemed people, are disobeying the Lord and losing the impact of their testimony. I just wrote a book on this called Christ’s Call to Reform the Church. I think it’s in the bookstore now. Is it? Does anybody know? I can tell it’s really hit with a bang; you never even heard – Michael, you haven’t even heard of it.
MICHAEL: It’s there.
JOHN: Oh, it’s there, okay. Have you read it?
JOHN: Oh, okay. I mean, we do that here, right? We call the church to be holy and godly, and we would do that. So I wrote this book to try to call the evangelical church to wake up and quit chasing the world. Pretty direct, and it comes out of Revelation 2 and 3 – 1, 2 and 3 – Lord’s letters to the churches.
So I am the ultimate optimist because I read the end of the story, and Christ wins. It’s already determined. “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and I’ll lose none of them,” – right? John 6 – “but raise them at the last day.” All the elect will be brought in. The Lord will build His church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
I am the ultimate optimist. But at the same time, I am also an adamant critic of an unfaithful church; and I think that reflects the Lord’s attitude toward an unfaithful church as indicated in the letters He wrote to the churches in Asia Minor in the book of Revelation. So while on the one hand, we know Christ triumphs. On the other hand, it’s not right for the church to dishonor the Lord by not being everything a church should be. So I’m more concerned about the church. I can’t fix China, I can’t fix India, I can’t fix America; nobody’s asking me to, nobody expects me to.
I think the first question Ben asked me was about how much I should be engaged in politics, and I said, “Look, politics is all about rearranging the temporal order. My message is about eternal things.” You know, moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic, it doesn’t really help; it’s going down. So I’m not interested in just rearranging the deck chairs on a ship that’s going to sink on the day of the Lord, I want to see a difference made for eternity.
So that’s the focus, and that’s where I think as believers we need to keep our focus, not get caught up in the politics of all these things, so that we begin to be really kind of moved around emotionally by political things rather than spiritual things. Okay?
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
JOHN: Good question.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Pastor MacArthur. This is Brian Tu, former Department of Defense contractor with ITT Industries.
JOHN: Hi, Brian.
QUESTIONER: I have a question about Revelation chapter 13, verse 15, where the image of the beast speaks to the people. If – which we know in the Department of Defense now that they’ve moved away from artificial intelligence and are using artificial life remote neural networks with a will, intellect, and emotion of their own. We know that the Iraqi Army in the first Gulf War surrendered to the Americans with their weapons dismantled, because they believed that their god Allah had told them to dismantle their weapons – that’s what a reporter found out.
Could this be the mark of the beast, the weaponization of neuroscience? We know the answer. But I’m asking you from a theological perspective, could this be the mark of the beast, mainly the weaponization of neuroscience and these new highly advanced conscious supercomputers called exascale systems?
JOHN: Yeah, I think it all fits in. I mean, God has to know that it’s coming, He’s always known that. Artificial intelligence for most people, unless you’re there looking at whatever this machine is, is indistinguishable from a real person, right?
QUESTIONER: Well, it’s a virtual interface they’re using.
JOHN: Yeah. But I’m just saying you don’t know whether a virtual reality is talking to you or whether a person is talking to you.
QUESTIONER: Yeah, it’s called synthetic telepathy, synthetic telepathy.
JOHN: Sure, and forms of telepathy. And we’ve come so far in terms of brainwashing people. And we all understand now, right, that somewhere somebody knows everything about us, everything about us, by the purchases we make, by the entertainment we look at. I mean, all of that is tracked.
So, yeah, I think when the Antichrist takes control of all these things and gets control of everyone. And it talks about, you know, there’ll be a mark in the hand and a mark on the forehead, and you won’t be able to interact in the culture, you know. Maybe that’s an implanted disk instead of a credit card you might lose. But maybe it’s another form of control, neurological control. It’s not beyond possibility in the world in which we live. And I think all of that very likely will fit into the toolkit that the Antichrist will use to manipulate the world.
QUESTIONER: Can I also ask you one more question real quick?
QUESTIONER: Being former Department of Defense we know that there are many thousands of underground bases around the world, including here in the US, some of it quite massive in size. Could this be what Revelation is speaking about when it says that the kings of the earth, the princes, the rich men cried out to the mountains, “Fall down upon us and shield us from the Lamb”?
JOHN: Yeah, and I don’t know the answer to that, because I don’t want to do newspaper exegesis. So when you go back and you try to – you deal with the Bible always with what’s called authorial intent.
What did John see in the vision? What did John understand? Obviously he wouldn’t understand all these things, so I can’t speculate about what that would be. I mean, you have an army of two hundred million coming from the east. I don’t know what that is, but that’s what it says. So I can’t speculate as to the technological realities of these things. But somehow all of that may well fit into the final cataclysms that come.
It’s a little bit frightening on the one hand if you’re just an average guy and you’re hearing all of this stuff, you know. This used to be simple like Big Brother’s watching. Now not only is Big Brother watching, but he’s controlling how people function and even how they think; and those are frightening realities. This is a time for us to think biblically and be in the Word of God, think the thoughts of God.
What’s going to unfold in the end, I don’t know. But I do believe this: we’re going to go in the rapture before it starts. And I’m for that. Okay?
QUESTIONER: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Claire.
JOHN: Hi, Claire.
QUESTIONER: My question is, how do you battle unbelief and the fear of unbelief when you know that the Word of God is true, and you want to believe it, but sometimes you’re just unable to?
JOHN: Well, there’s an illustration of that in our Lord’s life where a man came to him and said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief,” and I think that becomes a prayer. You need to ask the Lord to strengthen your faith, to increase your faith. You need to call on the Lord to do that. But I will also tell you this: the more you understand the Word of God, the stronger your faith becomes.
I think one of the real tragedies in talking about the church today is that you have so many people who are evangelical Christians who go to church and are abysmally ignorant of the Bible. They hear these ridiculous kind of messages; I don’t even know, you know. I call it Little Bo Peep preaching. They take something from the Bible and use it as a pretext to preach, and it’s like using Little Bo Peep. “Little Bo Peep: she was little, she was insignificant, she was nobody. Even her name was insignificant: Bo Peep. And she lost her sheep. Everywhere people are lost.” This is the inane pretextual preaching that I hear all over the place. “Ah, but they’ll come home.” I haven’t figured out wagging their tails behind them.
The way that faith grows is by a greater apprehension of the truth of the Word of God. As the Word saturates your mind and heart and takes over your thinking, faith is stronger and stronger and stronger and stronger. I tell you that because that’s a testimony of Scripture, and that’s a personal testimony from somebody who’s been in the Word of God for a long, long time. And I can just tell you that doubt died for me a long time ago. And I’m not talking about doubt about me, I always come short; but doubt about God and His word, and His truth, and His purpose, and His plan died a long time ago under the sheer power of understanding the Word of God. So I think faith grows as we apprehend the truth of Scripture. That is why expository preaching is so important.
I was reading a book today, a book on reformed preaching by Joel Beeke, and he was talking about John Calvin. And John Calvin said, “We must do expositions of the Scripture.” This is what launched the Reformation. And looking back at the history of that era, churches during the Reformation had an exposition of Scripture every day of the week. Every day of the week at the church the Scripture was being exposited; and on Sunday there was a 6:00 AM service, and there was a 9:00 AM, and there was a 12:00 service, and there was a 3:00 service, and sometimes a 5:00 service for the exposition of Scripture. It was said about Ulrich Zwingli who was the Swiss Reformer, that he preached at least seven sermons a week and the exposition of Scripture.
Just think about the big evangelical world out there that claims to be Christian, has no idea what the Bible says, no real grasp of the depth and truth of Scripture. This is what stunts faith. And then if you go to the Christian bookstore and you get a bunch of silly things like Jesus Calls or whatever else, that doesn’t help. So I think our faith grows as we know more about God and know more about His plan, and that comes from the Scripture. Okay?
I don’t know if we have time for everybody. So who’s next? We’ll try to go – if you have a short question – real quick.
QUESTIONER: Quick. My name is Ron.
JOHN: Hi, Ron.
QUESTIONER: And first of all, my wife and I would like to thank you for your teaching in Thessalonians. It’s answered a lot of questions, which brings us to another question.
JOHN: It always does that.
QUESTIONER: In a worldly, ungodly way, I became the elect to ask the question from our family.
QUESTIONER: We have a question with regard to Old Testament prophets, and when they’re speaking under the power of the Holy Spirit and they made promises to the people they were speaking to, if those promises – having been adopted into this family – are applicable to us. An example in Jeremiah, “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “for your welfare, not for calamity; give you a future and a hope.” You know that.
So is that for us today? Can we look at those promises? And there are many examples in the Old Testament. Can we claim those as New Testament Christians?
JOHN: Yeah, very good question. There are some promises made specifically to the nation Israel. There are some promises made specifically to a group of people historically. But a promise like that where God says, “I know the plans that I have for you because you are My people,” I think that’s a universal promise.
We don’t have the promise, for example, of the land of Israel; that was given to the Jewish people. So there are promises that the context will tell you. But then there are those promises that simply reflect the Lord’s pledge to provide all that He possesses to His own people, and that would be a part of that.
There are promises that God made specifically to Israel. For example, you hear people quote this all the time: “If My people, who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray and seek God, then will I” – I don’t know the exact words – “come from heaven and heal their land.” That’s a promise to the nation Israel with regard to their land. That’s not a promise to the church, that if we pray that America’s going to be healed. So there are promises that the context will tell you that. But there are those general promises like that one that certainly stretch to all believers.
In Jeremiah 31, the promise of a new heart, a new spirit, the new covenant promise, while directly given to Israel, extends to anyone who believes, because the new covenant truth, the new covenant promises of God are given to all of those who come to God through the work of Christ. So the context will dictate that to you. But I think you need to embrace those general promises. Good. Okay?
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
QUESTIONER: Good evening, Dr. John. My name is Noago Tierres; formerly come from the Pentecostal charismatic movement, Four Square Church. And I was leaning kind of like – I understand now from your series from The Charismatics and The Charismatic Chaos and the Strange Fire Conference. I kind of listened to them like five times each so I could understand.
My question was always is just speaking in tongues still in the charismatic movement since they always been seeking and looking for more? Will it be considered as works added to their salvation kind of? I don’t know if it’s a question.
JOHN: Yeah, I think it’s a question. By the way, Four Square Church has produced some really wonderful things. I married a Four Square girl. I fell in love with a charismatic: Patricia. Her family was saved in a Four Square church, so we’re grateful for that.
Now I don’t want to get into a big discussion about tongues. They don’t even know what it is. It’s so obviously not what it was in the Scripture. What it was in the Scripture was known languages, known languages that could be translated miraculously, that they would speak a language they didn’t know, and then somebody would give a translation of that language they didn’t know. That was clearly what was going on in the book of Acts, and that’s what subsequently follows up. So the burden of proof is not on us to try to figure out what this is, they don’t even know what it is. They can turn it on and turn it off. They can learn the words that they say. It’s a kind of gibberish that has developed its own lingo.
So, yeah, it’s so obviously not the biblical gift. And because it’s a supernatural gift in the Bible, I go back to the same question: “If God was going to give that supernatural gift to anyone He wouldn’t give it to people with bad theology, because He’d be validating their bad theology.” Okay?
QUESTIONER: Hello, Pastor John.
QUESTIONER: My name is Thomas.
JOHN: Hi, Thomas.
QUESTIONER: So I believe that God is sovereign over everything, and everything that happens is by His will.
QUESTIONER: I also understand like God allows sin to be in this world, and that He does not cause us to sin. With those things in mind, does God actively plan for us to sin?
JOHN: God is too pure to do that. He doesn’t do evil, can’t do evil. It’s impossible for Him to do evil. Does He recognize that evil exists? Yes. Does He allow for evil to exist? Yes, for the purpose of putting on His attributes that would otherwise not be known, right? If there’s no sin, there’s no forgiveness, there’s no mercy, there’s no grace, there’s no compassion. Those are attributes of God that need to be displayed. And so God, while having no responsibility for evil, laying that responsibility at the feet of a rebellious group of angels and human beings, has nonetheless allowed for evil in His plan, in order that He might manifest His attributes, so that He can put His full range of attributes on display. That’s as far as we can go with that issue, okay?
It is obvious that God is sovereign. It is obvious that God planned for Christ to die on the cross; therefore, it is obvious that God knew there had to be a Savior to pay the penalty for sin; therefore, it’s obvious that God knew sin would come. He allowed sin for the very purpose of redemption so that He could display the glory of His nature on the redemptive side in the face of sin, and do that forever in heaven before saints and angels. Okay?
Really fast. Well, I think we can only take two more. I’m sorry. Yes, ma’am.
JOHN: Hi. My name is Madeline. How would you recommend someone go about starting to study the Bible on their own, beyond devos or quiet times, for the purpose of explaining it to themselves or someone else?
JOHN: Okay, this may sound a little self-serving. Get a MacArthur Study Bible, start at the beginning and read the notes. Just start reading the Bible and read the notes. Go whatever pace you want to go. And that’s a really good place to start. And I’m not trying to sell Bibles. Come see my wife, she’ll give you one. Okay?
QUESTIONER: Hi, Pastor John, my name is Roli.
JOHN: Hi, Roli.
QUESTIONER: Question in regards to the new heaven and new earth in Revelation 21 where it says, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them.’” And then further it says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will no longer be any death, no mourning, crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” But in Revelation 22, it says, “In the middle of the street, on either side of the river, was the tree of life, bearing fruit, twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruits every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
JOHN: Yeah, it’s not healing for the health. Nobody’s going to be sick. Nobody’s going to need to be healed. But there are going to be delicacies in heaven that are going to contribute to the fullness of our glory there, okay? That’s how that’s – it should have been translated “for the fullness or the wholeness of all that are there.”
Okay, I think that’s all we can do. We’ve got one young lady just desperate.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Thank you.
QUESTIONER: Thank you so much. My name is Talita. I just have a quick question about Matthew 24:9 where it says, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation and they will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” So I was confused because we talk about that you will be raptured. But now who you refers to?
JOHN: It refers to the people in the tribulation. The church is taken out; all that’s left are nonbelievers. But the gospel begins to be preached, Revelation says, by angels, by 144,000 Jews that are converted. People are going to be saved, and they’re going to be persecuted, and they’re going to be martyred. You even have martyrs under the altar crying, “How long, O Lord?”
So after the church is taken out there will be salvation in the world. Israel will be saved at that time, 144,000 Jews will evangelize the world, and there’ll be a great global revival from that evangelism. Okay?
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
JOHN: Good question.
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