By: Pastor Olson
Answers From The Bible prints weekly in the Sunday Detroit Lakes Tribune newspaper. If you have any questions, write Pastor Olson at First Baptist Church, 300 Central Street East, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501 or email email@example.com.
Q. Is there a difference between mortal sins (deadly sins) and venial sins (lesser sins)?
A. No! The Bible makes no distinction between the two. Now, some sins are worse than others (Proverbs 6:16-19), but Scripture never says that only certain kinds of sin leads to spiritual death. In fact, all sin leads to spiritual death and not just a certain category. This is true because Romans 3:23 says, “For all [people] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But what is also true from the Bible is that every single sin someone commits, whether small or huge, is a mortal sin because all sin leads to spiritual death. God’s Word is clear: “For the wages of sin is [spiritual] death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus is the answer for our sin problem. People need to turn to Him alone to be forgiven and receive eternal life.
Q. Someone said to me, “It is wrong to judge another person as to whether he or she is a Christian or not.” I did not know what to say.
A. First, we need to understand what Jesus meant by judging others (Matt. 7:1-6). He was speaking about judging fellow believers. True believers have to be careful that they don’t point their fingers against other believers when they, themselves, may have something in their own lives that is in need of repentance (vv. 4-5). Secondly, Jesus was not speaking against our responsibility to discern between truth and error in doctrine and those who teach fallacies (1 John 4:1). He said, “By their fruits you shall know them” (Matt. 7:20). Sin in anything, whether it be in belief or lifestyle, is exposed by the Bible. The true believer must not condone what is contrary to God’s Word. A true believer will bear evidences of being born again (1 John). Therefore, the Bible give us the right to be fruit inspectors.
Q. Is there anything in the Bible about the equality of the races?
A. There definitely is! The apostle Paul affirmed, “And He [God] has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). Therefore, all human beings are equal as far as their creation because God “has made from one blood every nation.” They are all equal as far as their sin problem: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There is equality as far as God’s love: “For God so loved the world [sinful humanity] that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever [from every tribe and person] believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Thus, there is no place for racial discrimination because all races are equal in God’s sight!
Q. Pastor Merrill, how important is it to be born again? This is seldom mentioned today among people. They seem afraid of it.
A. It is so important that if a person dies without being born again, he or she will never see heaven. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Again He stressed: “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again'” (v. 7). Therefore, it is eternally crucial to know whether you have been born again because it determines where you will spend eternity, either in heaven or hell. It does not make any difference whether you or anyone else has been a church member or lived an upright moral life. Without being spiritually born again, there is no hope of heaven. This is a truth that many people do not want to face today. But, it is a truth spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself! Being born again changes people inwardly. This is what our sinful world desperately needs!
Q. Pastor Olson, why do you put so much emphases on Jesus? There are founders of other religions that are just as important.
A. The reason why I put so much emphases on Jesus is because He is the only way of salvation. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, as we read in John 1:29, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” The Bible, in both Testaments, is all about Jesus (Luke 24:27; John 5:39-40). He is the eternal Son of God. He came from heaven’s glory and walked this earth as God/Man. He died and rose again (1 Cor. 15:1-8). All other founders are dead and await the judgment. They died in their sins (John 8:24). True Christianity is not a religion. It is a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Q. Pastor Merrill, my daughter is totally turned off to Christianity. She feels she is just as good as a lot of people who call themselves Christians but don’t act like it. What’s the answer?
A. There are a lot of people who call themselves Christians, but they have a religion without Christ. They do not know the life changing experience of the New Birth from above (John 3:3). They may have been baptized and go to church every Sunday. But, they have never experienced the transforming power of the living Lord Jesus. They have a religion without Him. This is what your daughter sees and says, “If that is Christianity, I don’t want it.” The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). “And you He made [spiritually] alive who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Therefore, your daughter needs to hear the testimonies of people who bear witness to Christ’s transforming power and show evidence of it in their lives.
Q. What does Hebrews 13:13 mean? I have been told that one should leave the local organized church because that is what is meant by camp?
A. The verse says, “Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His approach.” This verse and its context is not talking about the organized church that is Biblical in doctrine. There is no way that this wrong meaning can be gathered from the context and “rightly divide the word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). It is speaking of Judaism. Jesus, rejected by His people, died outside the walls of Jerusalem. He died “outside the camp” of the Judaism of His day. In the person of Jesus, God had been rejected in the camp. Now God’s presence must be enjoyed outside the camp where Jesus was and one must go outside of Judaism to approach God through Jesus. We must remember, too, that any local church is Biblical if it follows the Bible in doctrine, tradition, and practice. If it does not, then it is apostate and the true believer must come out of it. A person must leave it!
Q. Pastor Olson, I have a friend who believes in the annihilation/destruction of the unsaved. I don’t know the Bible well enough to respond to her belief.
A. This is a belief contrary to Scripture. The Bible clearly teaches that heaven is the everlasting abode of the saved and hell that of the unsaved. Jesus said, “Then He will say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire’…and these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:41, 46). Those who believe in annihilation say that the punishment is “annihilation” and that punishment is “everlasting” in the sense that the unsaved will be everlastingly annihilated. This could not possibly be true because annihilation would be ended punishment rather than endless punishment. However, the Bible specifically teaches that it is the “punishment” itself that is “endless” for the unsaved person. Just as, the saved will experience “eternal life” or “everlasting life” (John 3:16). It will not end. It is forever. Jesus said that the “righteous,” those redeemed in Him, “will go away…into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).
Q. How could all the animals fit into the ark?
A. The ark was easily large enough to hold all the animals as God directed. The description and measurements of it are given in Genesis 6:14-16. It was 438 feet long, 73 feet wide and 44 feet high. It was nearly 1 1/2 times the length of a football field and more than four stories high. It had three decks (Gen. 6:16), so the total deck area was nearly 96,000 square feet. The total volume within the decks was about 1,396,000 cubit feet. The carrying capacity of the ark would be equal to 522 standard railroad stock cars. The sheer massiveness of the ark must have staggered peoples’ thinking. Naval engineers have discovered that the shape and dimensions form the most stable ship design known. God did not design it necessarily for maneuverability but stability to protect those within (1 Peter 3:20). Those who have seen a replica of it in Kentucky bear testimony to this massiveness!
Q. Pastor Olson, are Jews saved differently than Gentiles when it comes to eternal salvation?
A. Jews are not saved differently. They also need to experience salvation in Jesus Christ. God’s Word says, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek [Gentile], for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:12-13). The Book of Romans speaks much about the unsaved condition of all people (3:23). This includes both Jews and Gentiles. It is very clear: “For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’” (3:9-10). Therefore, the conclusion is that both need redemption in Christ Jesus. He is the only way without any distinction (John 14:6).
Q. How should I as a follower of Christ treat secular rock music?
A. Avoid it! Much of it is against everything that the Jesus died for. It utilizes words and phrases to promote illicit sex, drugs, and rebellion. It blasphemes God and promotes ungodliness and depravity. It also draws demons to become involved in peoples’ lives. This anti- God influence and all that goes with it is a powerful force upon numerous teenagers. Consequently, drug pushers and users, sexual perverts, and blasphemers are becoming the heroes of young people, rather than godly men and women found in the church, sports, music, etc. Therefore, the Bible speaks to rock music when it says, “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). Making heroes out of secular rock stars who push evil through their Satanically inspired music is not in accordance with the commands of God’s Word.
Q. Pastor Olson, my daughter says that because God is a God of love He will not send anyone to hell. How do I answer her?
A. Yes, God is a God of love. He loved the world (sinful humanity) so much that “He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ is God’s gift of love to a sinful world. In Christ God offers salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life to “whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved (Romans 10:13). To reject the Lord Jesus Christ and turn from Him and refuse to commit our lives unto Him for salvation is to reject God’s love. When we do so, we send ourselves to a lost eternity. Hell is the consequences of sin in contrast to the holiness and love of God. To turn our backs on God’s forgiveness in Christ is to turn away from the greatest expression of love that has been given to sinful humanity. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that…Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Q. Pastor Merrill, is there any truth to reincarnation? I have heard so much about it but have never come across it in the Bible?
A. Reincarnation is the false belief that after death the soul eventually passes into another body (at the birth of a child), and the person is reborn as another individual. The cycle of rebirths gives the person the opportunity to redeem the mistakes of a former life. This process is continued until the person attains spiritual perfection and salvation. Reincarnation and transmigration are essentially the same except the latter is broader. The term includes the re-embodiment of the soul not only in human form but also in an insect or animal. However, Scripture refutes the belief in reincarnation whereby death seals a person’s eternal destiny. The Bible says, “And as it is appointed for man to die once, but after this the judgment (Heb. 9:27).
Q. Is heaven a place, say like a planet, or somewhere?
A. Yes, heaven is a place. But I do not see it like a planet. Jesus said to His followers and to us who know Him as our Savior, “I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). When Jesus left this earth and ascended to heaven, that is where He is now (Acts 1:9-11). When He returns in His Second Coming, He will come from heaven but first in the Rapture. The Bible says, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven” (1 Thess. 4:16). Until then when all true believers die, they are “absent from the body and present with the Lord” as their spirit leaves the body and enters the Lord’s presence (2 Cor. 5:8).
Q. Is conscience a sufficient guide for our lives?
A. No! It is an unsafe guide. The Bible speaks of the conscience as being of different types. It can be evil (Heb. 10 :22); weak and defiled (1 Cor. 8:7); seared with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4:2); purged (Heb. 9:14); pure (1 Tim. 3:9); good (1 Tim. 1:5, 19); and a conscience void of offense (Acts 24:16). Therefore, conscience is variable and untrustworthy. It is only when it is sensitive to the Scriptures can it be safely followed. But, it needs to be first enlightened by the Holy Spirit through being “born again” (John 3:3) and then made sensitive to God’s Word before it can be trustworthy. Jesus cleanses from the inside which is where the real problem is. By His Holy Spirit He cleanses the inner most thoughts and desires. Because of this, the conscience is made sensitive to the Word of God.
Q. If sincere people hold beliefs about Jesus and salvation that are not according to Scripture, will this keep them out of heaven? I believe God honors sincerity.
A. What we must keep in mind is that sincerity is a good thing when it is directed in the right way. But, sincerity in error is dangerous. Saul of Tarsus was sincere when he held erroneous beliefs regarding salvation and Jesus. Yet, he was eternally lost until he was confronted by the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus and was wondrously converted (Acts 9:1-9; 22:1-21; 26:1-23). Therefore, sincerity does not save! God does not honor sincerity unless it is on the right person or belief. For instance, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). To believe that and to turn to Him for salvation is to be sincerely right!
Q. Does “household baptisms” in the New Testament take in infant baptism?
A. No! Many attempt to use “household baptism” as evidence of infant baptism. Household baptism is mentioned in the New Testament such as Lydia in Acts 16:15; the Jailer in Acts 16:33; Crispus in Acts 18:8; and Stephanas in 1 Cor. 1:16. But these texts in their context mention nothing about infants being baptized. The early church did not practice any baptism except believer’s baptism by immersion in water. Infant baptism came into existence centuries later when people started to believe that water baptism was necessary for salvation. Thus, they began to baptize infants and sick people. Because they could not immerse them, they took on pouring or sprinkling water on them. As we study the previous texts, they reveal in their context that the prerequisite for baptism was saving faith in the Lord Jesus. Baptism has nothing to do with baptismal regeneration.
Q. Pastor Merrill, what does the Bible say about abortion? Are there any verses that speak directly to it?
A. Yes, there are verses. In Psalm 139:13-16 David shares that he was created by the Lord from conception to birth. Therefore, abortion destroys God’s divine work. In Proverbs 6:16-19 there are seven things that are “an abomination” to God. The third one is “Hands that shed innocent blood” (v.17). Abortion does this. We know that we live in a discard society. Society says, “If I do not need it or want it, I will get rid of it.” Consequently, we throw away things we do not want. Tragically, society has also learned to dispose of the unborn. It softens it by calling the unborn a “fetus.” God’s Word never uses that term. The Biblical one is “with child” (Gen. 16:11; Matt.1:18). For those women who have deep guilt and remorse for an abortion, is there any forgiveness? Yes, but it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ who can bring inward peace (Eph. 1:7).
Q. Are there evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
A. Yes! There are many evidences to the resurrection. Throughout history the testimony of honest eyewitnesses has been considered one of of the most reliable. Even in a court of law, eye witnesses hold strong proof in defending a person. This is the same for the resurrection. Let’s look at five: (1) Jesus first appeared to Cephas (Peter) (1 Cor. 15:5). (2) He appeared to the “twelve,” a reference to the eleven even though Judas was not yet replaced (v. 5). (3) He “was seen by over five hundred brethren at once” (v. 6). (4) Next he was seen by “James” his half brother who was a skeptic before this (v. 7). (5) The Lord appeared to Saul (vv. 9-10) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). This persecutor of the church became converted. A total miracle! There are other historical figures who bear testimony to the resurrection Its truth is solid!
Q. Is the Bible authoritative when it deals with facts about history and science?
A. It definitely is! Whenever it deals with certain facts about history and science, it is always correct. For example, Job 26:7 says, “He hangs the earth on nothing.” There is not anything that science can add or take away from this age old statement that God has hung the earth on nothing. Consider this one: “It is He [God] who sits above the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22). The word translated “circle” is the Hebrew “khug” which means “sphericity” or “roundness.” Even though the earth is not perfectly round, its bulge is so small that it still looks like a perfectly round ball. It was not too many centuries ago that people believed the earth was flat. For thousands of years astronomers busied themselves in counting the stars and constellations. But most astronomers would agree today that it is impossible to count all the stars. The Bible made that assertion over 2500 years ago. Jeremiah 33:22 says, “The host of heaven cannot be numbered.” The Bible is an amazing book! It is the inspired Word of God.
Q. Pastor Merrill, do the unsaved have a second chance after death?
A. No! The Bible does not teach such a thing. God has made this life alone the time of salvation for all who will repent of their sins and turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. God’s Word says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). It is not tomorrow, not next year, not after death but now. If we die without Christ, we die in our sins. Jesus told some very religious people that they would “die in their sins” without hope (John 8:24). He stressed that without Him people are under “condemnation” and will remain under this condemnation (John 3:18-19). Therefore, it is very clear from the truths of Scripture that there are no second chances after death. Death is final!
Q. I know people who have prayed the sinner’s prayer but nothing has changed. They live as they always have.
A. Praying the prayer will not save anyone. Many have prayed it and are not saved. Yet, the sinner’s prayer involves calling upon Jesus for salvation (Romans 10:13). Nevertheless, people must first realize that they are eternally lost, separated from God because of their sins and are in need of salvation that only comes through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-24). As they repent of their sins and turn to Him and embrace Him as their Lord and Savior, they can know they are saved. Through it all God’s work of redemption takes place in the human soul that results in a changed life (Romans 6:20-23).
Q. Do you believe in the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion? I have been brought up to believe this because Christ distinctly said, “Take eat, this is My body” and “Take, drink, this is My blood.”
A. No, I do not believe in the Doctrine of Transubstantiation. When Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is My body” (Matt. 26:26), He did not mean that it was His actual body because at that moment He was seated at the table with His disciples. In a similar way, the wine in the cup could not have been His actual blood because it was still in His veins. The only conclusion based on Scripture is that it symbolically represents His body and blood. In Luke, Jesus added “given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (22:19). This indicates that He was instituting a memorial of His sacrificial death for His followers to observe.
Q. It is hard for me to believe that good moral people are eternally lost if they do not put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. How can this be?
A. We need to realize that no matter how good we are we are still sinners (Romans 3:23). The Bible says, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Therefore, any goodness that we can present to God to be saved is nothing but “filthy rags” in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). There will also be no boasting in heaven. Salvation is “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesian 2:9). If we could earn our salvation and save ourselves, Jesus did not need to come and die a horrible death on the Cross for our sins and make a way for salvation (Eph. 1:7). His death would have been useless!
Q. What do I say to someone who says, “I don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites?”
A. Jesus is the only one in the New Testament to use the word “hypocrite.” He applied it to religious Pharisees who pretended to know God but really did not. Today, they are even in the churches doing religious work but are not true Christians as their lives reveal. They remain unsaved. People need to realize that it is eternally tragic to miss knowing Jesus and His grace because of someone else’s failure. The hypocrite is not worth losing heaven for. It is better to go to church with them instead of going to hell with them. Remember, each person will give an account to God for oneself and not for another. Therefore, tell people to look to Jesus and not on others to be saved (Heb. 12:2).
Q. Will there be any sin in heaven?
A. No! There are a number of reasons for this. Let me give you two: First of all, only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be there (Rev. 20:15; 21:27). This does not come through baptism or good works (Eph. 2:8-9) but only through being spiritually born again (John 3:3). Secondly, every person in heaven will have their earthly body changed into a glorified body like the Lord Jesus (Phil. 3:20-21). No more will it be humbled by sin, sickness, and death. Instead, God will change it into an incorruptible and perfect one to enjoy the eternal blessings of heaven (1 Cor. 15:53-57; Rev. 21:2-4).
Q. I received Jesus as my Savior a short while ago, but I have guilt feelings concerning the sins I committed before that time. What do I do?
A. When you sincerely came to the Lord Jesus for salvation, He cleansed you from all unrighteousness (Isaiah 1:18). He forgave your sins, and He will no longer hold you accountable for them (Ps. 103:11-12). But if you still have guilt feelings, they may come from one of three sources: (1) By not fully understanding what forgiveness in Christ is all about; (2) By Satan who loves to harass you about your former life without Christ; (3) By feelings of wrong which you actually did against someone that remains undone. Even though God forgives, it still needs to be settled by you if all possible. Always remember: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Q. I find that many people in religious cults view Scripture differently on just about every Biblical truth. Why is this?
A. First of all, people involved in religious cults are influenced by “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (I Timothy 4:1). Satan has blinded them to the truths of the Word of God. Therefore, the true meaning of the Scriptures is foreign to them. Secondly, because of this blindness they bring their preconceived notions and theology to the Bible in an attempt to make it say something it is not. Consequently, the tragic result is that “their message will spread like cancer” and many people will also become deceived whom listen to them and their teaching (II Timothy 2:17).
Q. Is Jesus the only way to heaven?
A. Yes! In spite of the objections by many who feel there are many ways, Jesus is the only way. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The apostle Peter declared: “Nor is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In spite of what sinful people and our pluralistic society believe that there are many ways, there is still only one way. Without saving faith in Jesus Christ, no one will enter heaven. He said it and that does away with a lot of false teaching that there are many ways.
Q. Are the days of the Genesis creation 24 hours long?
A. Yes! The Hebrew word for day is “Yom.” It can mean a long period of time in Scripture. Yet, the first and literal meaning of the word is a natural day unless the context brings out another meaning. But, when the Old Testament associates “Yom”, or day, with a definite numeral, a solar day of 24 hours is always meant.
An example of this is in Exodus 20:11: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” Insisting on six solar days of creation is simply to believe what God actually says in His Word. Nothing has changed since creation.
Q. What does Jesus or the Bible say about separating children from their parents?
A. There is nothing in the Bible or with Jesus about separating children from their parents. But, what the Bible does teach is that children are important to the Lord. They were brought to Him, and the disciples tried to prevent it. “But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me…” (Matt. 19:14).
These children were privileged to have Jesus take them in His arms. However, the important concern we should have is for the 60 million babies that have been aborted since 1973. The Bible speaks strongly about the unborn child (Psalm 139:13-16).
Q. There are approximately 2.1 billion Christians in the world. Does this mean that 5.2 billion are going to hell?
A. It is important to first define “Christian.” A Christian is not simply someone who claims to be one, goes to church, or has been baptized. A Christian is a person Jesus calls inwardly “born again” (John 3:3, 7).
Therefore, the Lord only knows how many people are truly “born again.” Yet, He does say that there is a “broad way-a wide gate” that leads to hell and a “narrow-gate-a difficult way” that leads to heaven (Matt. 7:13-14). He stresses that “many” go in by the wide gate and “few” by the narrow. This tells us that the majority will not enter heaven but only the “few.” He knows the number. But it all has to do with what people personally do with Jesus (Rom. 10:9-13).
Q. II Timothy 1:10 says that Christ “has abolished death.” Why do people still die?
A. We must keep in mind that there are three kinds of death: physical death, spiritual death, and the second death.
Physical death is the separation of the body from the spirit and soul. Spiritual death is separation from God. The second death is spiritual death prolonged into eternity in the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).
The Lord Jesus has abolished spiritual death and the second death for all who will come to Him and be saved. This does not come through church affiliation of any kind but through repentance and saving faith in Him. This places them under the shelter of His shed blood. For these, Christ has even robbed physical death of its terror because in death they are “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).
There will be those, also, who will never experience physical death if they are alive on this earth when Christ comes back. They will go to heaven without dying (1 Thess. 4:17).