THE CHRISTADELPHIAN ISOLATION LEAGUE
SOME DIFFICULT PASSAGES
2. THE “PRE-EXISTENCE” PASSAGES
In John’s Gospel
In Colossians & Philippians
The Mighty God
3. PASSAGES CONCERNING DEATH AND RESURRECTION.
“Passed from death unto life”
“Whosoever liveth and believeth in me”
The Thief on the Cross
The Rich Man and Lazarus
The Spirits in Prison
“He is not a God of the dead”
“The Souls under the Altar”
SOME DIFFICULT PASSAGES.
It is good to know the answers; but it is far more important to have the right attitude to Bible difficulties. Suppose, for example, that someone draws our attention to two passages of Scripture that seem to contradict each other. How do we react? We do not say, like some, “The Bible contradicts itself; therefore it cannot be the Word of God”. Nor do we say, like others, “The Bible contradicts itself: therefore it cannot all be divine. It only contains the Word of God”. What then do we say?
Some of us have occasionally been known to say, “I can’t see any difficulty at all” - a remark that happens to be true only because our eyes are tight closed, and we refuse to look frankly at the difficult passages in question. Sometimes our defence takes a different form, and we say, “Yes, there is an apparent contradiction, but it is very easily explained, like this... “and we proceed to becloud the issue with a multitude of words and little knowledge. And sometimes we are in the happy position of being able to give a reasonable explanation of the difficulty.
Of course we are right in refusing to believe that the Word of God contains contradictions; but it is obviously dishonest to pretend that there is no difficulty — when there is; or that we know the answer - when we don’t.
Apparent contradictions are by no means the only Bible difficulties that baffle us, and reveal our ignorance. Need we stress the fact that there are bound to be many problems of many kinds in the Word of God? God Himself declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55: 8, 9). Indeed, it would be surprising if we did not encounter difficulties in a message from One who is so much greater than ourselves.
The pertinent question is: How do we react in face of these difficulties? Already we have reminded ourselves that we need humility enough to admit freely that there are many things we don’t understand. We are not “letting the Truth down” when we openly make this admission. A pretence to personal infallibility is far more likely to create an unfavourable impression. Which of us could claim to know all the answers to all the problems concerning sacrifices under the Mosaic law? Or who could explain coherently and exhaustively that great concentration of Scripture symbology found in the Revelation? Or, for that matter, who could claim a complete understanding of the “simplest” Bible subject? We have much to learn. “if any man thinketh he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know”.
Only those deeply conscious of their limited understanding are likely to develop an intense desire to understand more. The Scriptures make it clear that the Almighty appreciates this desire for understanding in His servants. “it is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter”. The prophet Daniel is an outstanding example of one who sought for understanding; and it was when he was thus engaged that he was addressed as “a man greatly beloved”, and was given a deeper knowledge of the things of God.
“Seek, and ye shall find”, was the Lord’s counsel. We can do this in two ways: by asking God to enlighten us; and by searching the Scriptures for knowledge. Indeed, our prayers to God will be that He will guide us in our Bible explorations. Thus the Psalmist prayed, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (119: 18)
All the answers
It cannot be emphasized too much that the Bible contains all the answers to all Bible difficulties. The Scriptures explain the Scriptures. Here is a typical example to illustrate how the Bible provides the answers to its own difficulties. The “answer” may be familiar to many already. In Matt. 16: 28 we read that the Lord Jesus says to his disciples, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom”. What do these words mean? They cannot mean that these men were immortal; nor can they be taken to imply that the kingdom “should immediately appear”.
The words that follow in Matthew 17 provide the answer. Six days later, and therefore long before death overtook them, three disciples witnessed the Lord’s transfiguration on a high mountain. That this was some kind of a preview of “the Son of man coming in his kingdom” is explained by one of these disciples, Peter: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (note the theme!), but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1: 16-18).
Let us now draw a little closer to our subject, and glance at the types of difficult passages that we hope to consider in this booklet. There are a number of passages concerning the Lord Jesus Christ that seem to teach his personal pre-existence; there are other Scriptures that appear to contradict general Bible teaching concerning death and resurrection; others again concerning the devil and demons present their difficulties; and the numerous remaining problems can, for our purposes, be called “miscellaneous”.