WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT WE ARE LIVING IN A FALLEN WORLD:

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The word fallen is used in the Bible to describe someone or something spiritually and morally degraded. Israel is described as “fallen” (Amos 5:2), as are angels (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:4) and the glory of mankind (1 Peter 1:24). Each of these has fallen away from the heights of God’s good will for them, fallen into sin, and therefore fallen under the just wrath of God. Those in a fallen state suffer the degrading and deadly spiritual, moral, and social consequences of sinfulness.

Several Bible passages speak of this kind of downfall: 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns Christ’s followers, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Falling into sin is the opposite of growing up in righteousness. In Revelation 2:5, Jesus speaks to the church of Ephesus, which had left its first love: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (ESV).

The whole world of mankind has fallen:

• from friendship with God into proud estrangement from Him and enmity with Him; this leaves us diseased and dying in every part of our personalities and bodies (Genesis 2:16; 3:2-19; Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 30:15–20)

• from our full reflection of His likeness into shattered, distorted images, suffering the results of our brokenness (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 15:19; Romans 1:14—2:16; Romans 3:9–20)

• from joyful obedience to God’s rules so as to fulfill His superlative design for our lives into lawless rebellion and constant frustration and warfare at every level of society (Genesis 3:14–16; James 4:1–10)

• from the beauty, tranquility, and vitality of godly family life into a cesspool of sexual-identify confusion, domestic strife, and aimlessness (Genesis 3:16; Romans 1:14—2:16; Galatians 5:19–21)

• from dominion as trustees of God’s world into a selfish exploitation of the land and the resulting ecological disaster (Genesis 3:17–19; Ecclesiastes 5:8–17; Haggai 1:6)

• from knowledge of God’s enlightening truth into the darkness of ignorance and the confusion of depraved minds (Genesis 2:17; Proverbs 1—31; Judges 1—21; Romans 1:28)

To live in a fallen world means we struggle with sin on a daily basis. We experience heartache and pain. We witness natural disasters and staggering loss. Injustice, inhumanity, and falsehood seem to hold sway. Discord and trouble are commonplace. None of this was God’s original plan for humanity. We fell from our original position in the Garden of Eden. We now live in a fallen world, and all creation “groans” under the consequences of our sin (Romans 8:22).

The good news is that God does not intend His world to forever groan. Through Jesus Christ, God is repairing His creation:

• restoring friendship with Himself in Jesus Christ, giving us eternal life (John 10:10; 15:15; Romans 3:21–31; 5:1–11; 6:1–14; 8:1–4; 8:22–23; 1 Corinthians 15:26; Ephesians 1:3—2:22; Colossians 1:15–22)

• restoring the reflection of God’s likeness in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28–32; 1 Corinthians 6:11)

• restoring His rules for a fulfilling life in Jesus Christ, resulting in true peace and prosperity (Matthew 5—7; Ephesians 5:15–21; James 2:8)

• restoring His design for the family through Jesus Christ (Luke 1:17; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:21—6:4; Colossians 3:18–21)

• restoring man’s proper dominion in caring for God’s world (Romans 8:18–21)

Jesus Christ has promised to return, and when He comes back, He will finish setting everything right forever (Isaiah 2:2–4; 25:6–9; 65:17–25; Revelation 20—22). Don’t miss God’s final invitation to all fallen people: “Come!” (Revelation 22:17). All who come to God by faith in Jesus Christ will be restored.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD?

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Having a personal relationship with God begins the moment we realize our need for Him, admit we are sinners, and in faith receive Jesus Christ as Savior. God, our heavenly Father, has always desired to be close to us, to have a relationship with us. Before Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden (Genesis chapter 3), both he and Eve knew God on an intimate, personal level. They walked with Him in the garden and talked directly to Him. Due to the sin of man, we became separated and disconnected from God.

What many people do not know, realize, or care about, is that Jesus gave us the most amazing gift—the opportunity to spend eternity with God if we trust in Him. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ to take on our sin, be killed, and then be raised to life again, proving His victory over sin and death. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). If we accept this gift, we have become acceptable to God and can have a relationship with Him.

Those who have a personal relationship with God include God in their daily lives. They pray to Him, read His word, and meditate on verses in an effort to get to know Him even better. Those who have a personal relationship with God pray for wisdom (James 1:5), which is the most valuable asset we could ever have. They take their requests to Him, asking in Jesus’ name (John 15:16). Jesus is the one who loves us enough to give His life for us (Romans 5:8), and He is the one who bridged the gap between us and God.

The Holy Spirit has been given to us as our Counselor. “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17). Jesus said this before He died, and after He died, the Holy Spirit became available to all who earnestly seek to receive Him. He is the one who lives in the hearts of believers and never leaves. He counsels us, teaches us truths, and changes our hearts. Without this divine Holy Spirit, we would not have the ability to fight against evil and temptations. But since we do have Him, we begin to produce the fruit that comes from allowing the Spirit to control us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

This personal relationship with God is not as hard to find as we might think, and there is no mysterious formula for getting it. As soon as we become children of God, we receive the Holy Spirit, who will begin to work on our hearts. We should pray without ceasing, read the Bible, and join a Bible-believing church; all these things will help us to grow spiritually. Trusting in God to get us through each day and believing that He is our sustainer is the way to have a relationship with Him. Although we may not see changes immediately, we will begin to see them over time, and all the truths will become clear.

Prophet Nathan Emol

DO CHRISTIANS HAVE TO OBEY THE LAW OF THE LAND?

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Romans 13:1-7 states, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

This passage makes it abundantly clear that we are to obey the government God places over us. God created government to establish order, punish evil, and promote justice (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Romans 12:8). We are to obey the government in everything—paying taxes, obeying rules and laws, and showing respect. If we do not, we are ultimately showing disrespect towards God, for He is the One who placed that government over us. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, he was under the government of Rome during the reign of Nero, perhaps the most evil of all the Roman emperors. Paul still recognized the Roman government’s rule over him. How can we do any less?

The next question is “Is there a time when we should intentionally disobey the laws of the land?” The answer to that question may be found in Acts 5:27-29, “Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’“ From this, it is clear that as long as the law of the land does not contradict the law of God, we are bound to obey the law of the land. As soon as the law of the land contradicts God’s command, we are to disobey the law of the land and obey God’s law. However, even in that instance, we are to accept the government’s authority over us. This is demonstrated by the fact that Peter and John did not protest being flogged, but instead rejoiced that they suffered for obeying God (Acts 5:40-42).

Prophet Nathan Emol

ARE WE TO LOVE THE SINNER BUT HATE THE SIN?

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Many Christians use the cliché “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” This saying is not found in the Bible in so many words; however, Jude 1:22–23 contains a similar idea: “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” According to this, our evangelism should be characterized by mercy for the sinner and a healthy hatred of sin and its effects.

We are to have compassion on sinners for whom Christ died, and we are also to keep ourselves “from being polluted by the world”—part of what constitutes “pure and faultless” religion (James 1:27). But we also realize that we are imperfect human beings and that the difference between us and God in regard to loving and hating is vast. Even as Christians, we cannot love perfectly, nor can we hate perfectly (i.e., without malice). But God can do both of these perfectly, because He is God. God can hate without any sinful intent. Therefore, He can hate the sin and the sinner in a perfectly holy way and still lovingly forgive the sinner at the moment of repentance and faith (Malachi 1:3; Revelation 2:6; 2 Peter 3:9).
The Bible clearly teaches that God is love. First John 4:8–9 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” Mysterious but true is the fact that God can perfectly love and hate a person at the same time. This means He can love him as someone He created and can redeem, as well as hate him for his unbelief and sinful lifestyle. We, as imperfect human beings, cannot do this; thus, we must remind ourselves to “love the sinner; hate the sin.”

How exactly does that work? We hate sin by recognizing it for what it is, refusing to take part in it, and condemning it as contrary to God’s nature. Sin is to be hated, not excused or taken lightly. We love sinners by showing them respect (1 Peter 2:17), praying for them (1 Timothy 2:1), and witnessing to them of Christ. It is a true act of love to treat someone with respect and kindness even though you do not approve of his or her lifestyle or sinful choices.

It is not loving to allow a person to remain stuck in sin. It is not hateful to tell a person he or she is in sin. In fact, the exact opposites are true. Sin leads to death (James 1:15), and we love the sinner by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We hate the sin by refusing to condone, ignore, or excuse it.

Prophet Nathan Emol

IS SAYING REST IN PEACE FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS DIED BIBLICAL?

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The acronym RIP (or R.I.P.) is often seen carved on tombstones, and the words rest in peace are often heard at wakes and funerals. It comes from the Latin blessing requiescat in pace (literally, “may he begin to rest in peace”). Is it biblical to say, “Rest in peace”? The expression “rest in peace” is never used in Scripture in connection with a person who had died. So, in that sense, saying “Rest in peace,” is not expressly biblical.

At the end of the book of Daniel, an angel speaks of Daniel’s death, saying, “You will rest” (Daniel 12:3). And the prophet Isaiah says, “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57:2). These two passages are the closest the Bible comes to the idea behind RIP. Still, the exact words rest in peace are not used.

Because the thought of death can be frightening, people through the years have invented some platitudes with which to comfort themselves. When someone dies, we often hear unbiblical statements such as “She’s an angel now” and “God needed another angel in heaven”; sometimes, we hear the bromide “He’s in a better place,” spoken with no thought that he might actually be in a worse place. People who never have time for God suddenly grow religious at a funeral. They try to assure themselves and others that, regardless of the deceased’s relationship with God while on earth, he or she is in heaven now. But we must not ignore what Scripture teaches.

The Bible is clear that physical death is not the end (Hebrews 9:27John 3:16–18). Jesus taught that there are only two options for every human being: heaven and hell (Matthew 10:2825:46Mark 9:43;). He gave a vivid picture of those two options in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19–31. In this account, the rich man, who had given no thought of God during his earthly life, went to hell when he died. Lazarus, who possessed nothing on earth but a pure heart, was taken to paradise. Hell is described as a place of torment (verse 23), not a place of rest. According to Scripture, a person who dies without Christ is not “resting in peace” (see John 3:18). “‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:21).

However, death is entirely different for those who are “in Christ” (Romans 8:11 Corinthians 1:30). First Thessalonians 4:13 reminds us that, while it is natural to grieve for loved ones who have died, we do not need to grieve for believers in Christ as though we will never see them again. There is hope mixed with the sorrow. The Bible often refers to the dead in Christ as “those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20Acts 13:361 Thessalonians 5:10). The biblical writers used sleep as a metaphor because death for a Christian is only temporary. Paul said that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Those who receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior are with Him in paradise when they die (Luke 23:43). So, after death Christians do enter a “rest,” and it is “peaceful.” However, is saying, “Rest in peace,” biblical?

The problem with saying, “Rest in peace,” is that it is framed as a prayer. In Latin, it is literally “May he begin to rest in peace.” Of course, praying for the dead is unbiblical. At the moment of death, a person’s fate is sealed. The Bible never teaches or even suggests that we should pray on behalf of those who have passed away. Saying, “Rest in peace,” writing “RIP,” and other forms of prayers for the dead are rooted in Catholic tradition, not the Word of God.

Prophet Nathan Emol