3 Truths and a Myth about Angels

This is a guest post by Lindsay John Kennedy.

Although many popular misconceptions exist, the Bible tells us quite a bit about angels. It may not answer all our questions, but what it says, it says clearly.

In this post, we draw from Michael Heiser’s Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host to learn how the Bible speaks about angels, starting with a common misconception about the term “angel.” [Read more…]

How to Create and Search a Passage List

In response to a recent blog about locating where Jesus speaks about the kingdom, a Logos user emailed me the following power-user tip that I wanted to pass along to you:

I create a Passage List of verses with Jesus as the Speaker in Reported Speech. Then in the future I search that list for the words I want. [Read more…]

Why Bother Learning about Angels? Michael Heiser Answers

What the Bible really says about angels is often overlooked or filtered through popular myths. Whatever you think you know about angels, there’s a good chance it’s wrong.

But why does that matter? Is a more accurate understanding of God’s heavenly host relevant for Christians today?

In his new book, Angels, Michael Heiser tackles these misconceptions head on. He grounds his study in the biblical context. In this excerpt, Heiser shows us why a correct understanding of angels is important in a correct understanding of God and his creation.

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Popular interest in angels and angel stories is high, which is symptomatic of our culture’s insatiable appetite for the supernatural. It seems every other movie or television show features a paranormal theme, alien superheroes, or some mischievous or malevolent deity. Bookstore shelves are well stocked with books about aliens, preternatural creatures, and, of course, angels and demons. That wouldn’t be the case if they didn’t sell, but sell they do. Unfortunately, the content isn’t very biblical, even when it tries.

Much of what Christians think they know about angels is more informed by Christian tradition than Scripture. The angelology of Christian tradition is, to say the least, quite incomplete and, in some ways, inaccurate.

But why should we care about angels?

Because angelology helps us think more clearly about familiar points of biblical theology. God’s supernatural family is a theological template for understanding God’s relationship to his human family of believers—and our greater importance compared to them. Learning what the Bible says about angels ultimately is tied to thinking well about how God thinks about us. What God wants us to know about angels contributes to our eternal perspective.

In our discussion of Old Testament angelology, I’ll draw your attention to the plural language of Genesis 1:26 (“let us make humankind in our image,” LEB). That language isn’t a cryptic reference to the Trinity. God is speaking to his heavenly host. He is sharing a decision with them—decreeing his will, as it were. If he were speaking to the members of the Trinity, they would already know what’s in God’s mind, because they are coequal and coeternal with him. Instead, the plural language of Genesis 1:26 intentionally connects humanity, God, and the members of the heavenly host with respect to an important biblical concept: imaging God. Imaging God is about representation—acting on God’s behalf at his behest. Humans image God on earth. The heavenly host images God in the spiritual, non-terrestrial world. The two are connected by design—and that has amazing ramifications.

Humans were tasked to make the whole world like Eden: a place where God’s goodness was known and his presence experienced; where humanity’s needs were met and God’s created world could be fully known and enjoyed; where imagers related to each other the way God related to them, with joy and love. God intended humanity to finish a task he had begun. He wanted participation—and that should sound familiar if one is familiar with the heavenly host, God’s initial family.

Understanding this status provides an answer to questions like, “How should we then live?,” “How do we image God?,” and “How should we see and treat each other?” We image God by doing what he would do, when he would do it, and with the motivation he would have for doing it. Yes, we are lesser than God and will fail. But God forgives—another lesson on what imaging means. We image God when we imitate God, acting on his behalf. It’s difficult to see how any facet of this could be deemed impractical for Christian living.

You may not have realized it while you were reading, but we just thought theologically, by means of an insight about God’s heavenly host. Believe it or not, the significant, practical idea of imaging God extended from a more insightful angelology—drawn from the plurals of Genesis 1:26, where God speaks to his heavenly host. That insight helped us think about practical holy living. Surprise!

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Discover what the Bible really says about angels and start thinking theologically about God’s heavenly host. Get Angels today!

Language Cannot Sit Still, Even in Church

An editor once told me I could not say that a certain contemporary theologian “channeled” Jonathan Edwards. It felt too New-Agey to him.

Usually I accept 100% of an editor’s suggested changes. I feel safer that way. But this time I protested. I felt that the editor was channeling persnicketiness. A brief tug-of-war ensued. He won; he happened to be my teacher.

Our friendly dispute offers yet another lesson about language that will be helpful for your Bible study.

Channel is, yes, a word used in New-Agey, séancey kinds of circumstances. It’s a metaphor: when Shirley MacLaine channels some spirit, she is “like” a narrow length of water connecting two larger bodies, only it’s not water but some spiritual essence that is flowing.

But languages never stop changing—a fact I never tire of mentioning, because it is so significant for Bible interpretation and for contemporary communication of the Bible’s message to others.

English has now developed a new metaphor off of the original one (!). People now commonly say things like, “President X channeled President Lincoln.” Such a sentence is not claiming that President X is engaging in New Age mumbo jumbo. No, in his mannerisms or decisions or wording he somehow mimicked Lincoln so well that it was like he was channeling him. This new sense of channel, says my dictionary, means “emulate or seem to be inspired by.”

This is the way language works. Physical things like channels become metaphors. And then those metaphors become so stable that they become, essentially, new words. People forget the old, literal meaning, or see it as a different word altogether. And then yet new metaphors are built off of the new word. (Language is so cool!)

And if you have a feeling that language shouldn’t do this, that it should just stop fidgeting and sit still, especially in church, take note: this very feature of language is found in the Bible.

Think of the word “pastor.”

The KJV uses the word “pastor” only once, in Eph. 4:11. It translates the Greek poimen. But everywhere else in the New Testament, seventeen times, this word is translated “shepherd.” Why did the KJV translators (and others to this day) choose “pastor” in this one place?

Because the context clearly shows that we’re talking about an established office in the church; the “shepherd” metaphor had become stable and, therefore, dead.

Our English word “pastor” has undergone the same process. It comes straight from the Latin word for “shepherd.” But you and I don’t hear pastor as an animal husbandry metaphor anymore. Similar things have happened with drug czar, for example, though my impression is that czar hasn’t gone quite as far on the dead-metaphor path. There’s still a whiff of Old Russia in the English word.

But, again, when I say the word pastor, I don’t smell sheep. If you insist that “pastor here in Ephesians 4 means shepherd,” you won’t quite be right. There’s a substantial difference between the two words.

My linguistics hero John McWhorter says, “One of hardest notions for a human being to shake is that a language is something that is, when it is actually something always becoming.” (3) The Greek of the New Testament is frozen in time, but all its words were undergoing this same process. Understanding this feature of language is helpful for careful, accurate Bible reading.

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Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as an Academic Editor at Lexham Press, the publishing imprint at Faithlife. His most recent book is Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible.

 

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash.

Can You Tell Fact from Fiction When It Comes to Angels?

If you think angels look like diapered babies with a bow and arrow, think again.

Michael S. Heiser’s new book, Angels, seeks to provide biblical answers for common questions about God’s heavenly host. He addresses topics including what angels look like, what they do, and whether modern thinking about guardian angels is biblical.

Take this fun 12-question quiz to see if what you know about angels matches what the Bible really teaches, then share your score in the comments.

And once you’ve finished the quiz, pick up Angels—available now from Lexham Press!

 

How a Good Study Bible Makes a Teacher’s Job Easier

A solid study Bible with teaching outlines belongs in every Bible teacher’s library.

If you are veteran Bible teacher, they’re a great tool for on-the-fly lessons when you haven’t had time to dig deep.

If you are a brand new one, they can serve as a guide until you gain the instincts for teaching.

And if you’re responsible for training or discipleship, they’re a top-notch resource to help those you lead dive into Bible research.

Here are three ways an in-depth study Bible with teaching outlines can help you or Bible study leaders you’re discipling discover more insights during lesson prep:

1. You can find most—if not all—of the background info you need about a passage in one place

Every book in the Bible was written at a specific time in history to specific people for a specific reason. Any good study Bible will tell you what those are, and a study Bible with teaching outlines helps you go even deeper.

For example, knowing the book of James was written by the brother of Jesus during the Diaspora helps us discover what the book says, what it means, and how it applies to our lives. In The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible on James, we learn that the “twelve tribes” named in James 1:1 indicate that the book’s audience are the people of Israel, specifically Jewish believers. Even though they were scattered by persecution, they were still the one people of God.

2. You see the main point and logical flow of the entire book with the detailed outline, so you know where your chosen passage fits as one piece of the whole

Each book of the Bible tells one cohesive story, but sometimes it’s hard to decipher why a particular passage exists where it does.

A study Bible with a teaching outline shows each turn and progression in a book so you can see how it all fits together. And when you see how the parts relate to the whole, you begin to see more in each part—and to see those parts in greater detail.

To use the example of James again, The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible says in its introduction to the book,

James had two purposes for writing:

  1. To correct a corrupted faith that was rapidly seeping into the church. Many were professing faith in Christ, but living immoral and unrighteous lives. Their faith was profession only—a faith of license with little or no restraint upon behavior.
  2. To present the true faith of Christ: a faith of the heart—a faith that produces outward fruit. James’s point is very simple: a person is known to be a Christian only by his behavior. What he does proves one of two things: it proves he is a Christian or it proves he is not a Christian.

In the section on James 1:19-27, The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible shows how James’ dual purposes for writing help us understand “the perfect law of liberty” in James 1:25:

The person who obeys and does the Word of God is blessed. Note that the Word of God is called the perfect law of liberty. This means that the Word of God will set a person free from the bondages of sin and death. The Word of God will free a person from all the temptations of this life and give him the full and victorious life for which his soul longs—a life that will continue on and on eternally with God.

With this short explanation, we can see how James makes connections between faith and life—and how God’s Word is at the center of both.

3. You get a ready-made lesson

When it comes to writing your Bible study lessons, some people only need a nudge in the right direction. Others excel at leading discussion but prefer to have others prepare the content.

Either way, a study Bible’s teaching outline gives you the tools you need to open God’s Word with others. The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible (18 vols.) provides a short synopsis of the each text and what’s happening before jumping into a pre-written lesson. You can use the lesson as is, or you can use the insights you find to create your own lesson.

Whether you’re a pastor, a full-time Bible teacher, or a lay leader, a study Bible with a teaching outline may be just what you need to help you teach God’s word more effectively.

For more biblical guidance and teaching helps, get The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible (18 vols.). You’ll save 20% while it’s still in pre-pub, but the price will go up when the series ships.

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered—to Satan?

Throughout the New Testament, “family language” is used to describe the relationship of believers to God and Jesus. The Lord’s prayer instructs us to address God as “our Father” (Matt 6:9). Hebrews 2:11–12 reveals that Jesus considers believers his own siblings. Paul says Christians comprise “the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). How is it, then, that Paul tells Christians living in Corinth that believers unrepentantly living in sin should not only be put out of the Church (1 Cor 5:9–13) but also “delivered to Satan” (1 Cor 5:5)? [Read more…]

3 Things You Might Not Know about C.S. Lewis

It’s C.S. Lewis week here at Faithlife! We’re celebrating the scholar’s life and writings, and with that, discounting the 30-volume C.S. Lewis Collection for one week only.

This is a post from the Logos Academic Blog remembering Lewis’ career, correspondence, and poetry. [Read more…]

On Misquoting C.S. Lewis (and Knowing an Author’s Voice)

It’s C.S. Lewis week here at Faithlife! We’re celebrating the scholar’s life and writings, and with that, discounting the 30-volume C.S. Lewis Collection for one week only.

This repost from Faithlife staff member Mark Ward previously appeared in March 2018. It reflects on what it means to know C.S. Lewis’ voice—or any other, such as God’s—well enough to discern it by instinct. [Read more…]

4 Ways C.S. Lewis Can Shape Your Faith: Insights from a Scholar

It’s C.S. Lewis week here at Faithlife! We’re celebrating the scholar’s life and writings, and with that, discounting the 30-volume C.S. Lewis Collection for one week only.

In this excerpt from the Walking with C. S. Lewis Companion Guide, author Ryan J. Pemberton shares four ways C.S. Lewis shaped the faith of Lewis scholar Tony Ash. Walking with C.S. Lewis is a video series on the writings of C.S. Lewis featuring Dr. Ash, a longtime professor at Abilene Christian University whose life and faith were profoundly shaped by Lewis’s influence. [Read more…]