Ask Dr. E – Episode 1

Burial v. Cremation. Is it ok to deceive? What does the Parable of the Fig Tree mean? And more. You asked. Dr. E answered.

Timestamps:

1:55 – My question deals with the statement by the Lord: I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Which, or what generation is the Lord talking about? It deals, of course, with the Fig Tree being Israel and when it gets tender and its leaves come out, you know it’s summer, so is that when Israel is – all the people are back and it’s doing very well, or is it when the Fig Tree was planted back in 1948 when Israel was re-established?

Dr. E: Matthew 24:29-34
Arguably one of the more complicated passages of Scripture.

Focus on the Fig Tree lesson – context solves so many questions! Why has Jesus set this answer up around a Fig Tree illustration?

In Matthew’s gospel this begins a series of parables. The fig tree was an obvious metaphor to the first-century listener.

Jesus was making clear that sign He is talking about would be terribly obvious to the believer.

Some think Jesus was talking to the Jewish audience. If that’s correct, then He’s talking to Jews as a race/nation of people and they would not be eliminated before the coming of these things.

My sense is a little more generic. Jesus is saying the Jewish people under this view would not be eliminated until this thing came to fruition.

A second thought is that “generation” applies to a broader context of Matthew, meaning the generation at the end time – because He’s talking about when the Son of Man appears in the sky, that the tribes will mourn…

I lean toward the “generation” means a broader generation at the end of time.

But this is a complicated passage, and with complicated passages we don’t often have an easy answer.

7:59 – I am calling with an end of life question. My father in law is a pastor and he has pretty strong opinions about burial v cremation. I would love to hear what Dr. E thinks about those options.

Let’s make a few observations: In antiquity and today, think of someone whose remains were lost at sea or in a traumatic fire, like 9/11 – the number of bodies that were never reclaimed. From a high theological view, the ancients and theologians would have to acknowledge that some people’s bodies are “disintegrated” – there’s nothing there to bury.

If we can’t recover the remains, what do we do?

The argument would be on some sides that it’s wrong to volitionally have a body cremated.

Deuteronomy 34: 1-6, Moses is going to die and the Lord comes to him. Why does Christ come down and bury His servant Moses?

Dr Wendell Johnson: It intrigues me that Jesus saw dignity in the burial of His servant.

But, nobody knows where Moses is buried.

I try to respect peoples’ passions and views about burial v. cremation because it’s a very personal and emotional decision, but I would also say just for my two cents: it doesn’t matter whether a person’s cremated or buried in a very expensive coffin in the ground.

At the end of the day, this body is a suit of clothes that is a temporary shelter. We don’t live in this body eternally, we have a resurrected body. If God’s able to resurrect bodies from the sea and bodies that were burned beyond recognition, I think He can resurrected a cremated body.

15:12 – My question is about deception and whether or not it’s okay to deceive in situations of life and death against an enemy. Is a mother required to reveal the location of her children to a murder who is perhaps in the house? I’m basing this question on several places in the Bible where we see believers who deceive – the midwives in Moses’ time, Rahab who hid the spies, Tamar when she deceived Judah…Rahab and Tamar were both rewarded for their faith, which included deception. Abraham omitted that Sarah was his wife, and Joshua was told by the Lord to ambush the people of Ai in Joshua 8:2. The Israelites pretended to be retreating to draw out Ai and defeat them.

My question: Is it okay, in a life and death situation, to deceive the enemy?

There are a lot of opinions about the examples cited in the question.

God did not specifically bless Rahab because she lied. She’s believed a rumor of this God named Yahweh Elohim, so let’s call her a new or young Christian. He didn’t bless her because she lied, He blessed her because she had faith in Him.

With Tamar, God doesn’t bless her for her lies–He blesses her for her faith. Exodus 1:21

Let’s think about the midwives lie in order to save lives – think about murder v. lying about doing my homework. Both are sin, but we have this sort of arbitrary viewpoint that there is a “higher law” and a “lower law”

Let’s turn the heat up: There’s a higher law of God’s law, and a lower law of man or governmental authority.

If we go to Romans 13:1 or Titus 3:1, we’re not to break governing laws–but, let’s go back to this slice of humanity: which of us could say, “I’ve never lied, I’ve never sinned, and God used me and blessed me.” when we get into the ethical dilemma of “did Rahab lie?” Yes. Was there another way for her to do it? Had Rahab told the truth, would God have spared the spies some other way? Perhaps. But she did. Which is one of the cool things about the Bible, it doesn’t hide our humanity.

To me, the highest level is God uses us in our faithfulness even though we’re sinful.

I think He blessed a lot of those people not because of their sin, but because they had great faith in Him despite their situation.

21:30 – What are Dr. Easley’s thoughts on predestination?

First, We need a biblical perspective, not a human perspective. Some truths of scripture need a heavenly lens, not a human lens, and you nor I can fathom it.

Second, The idea of predestination bleeds into fate and the absence of freewill. Romans 9:13, Malachi 1:2-3

Third, Let’s think about God making choices: God chose Abram and named in Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, He chose Moses, He chose Joshua, He chose Caleb, He chose every prophet. I don’t think any prophet was, “Here I am, send me” until Isaiah was forgiven.

Fourth, from the human lens, since God chose Israel, we’d assume He didn’t choose other people. Our human lens says, “We were better, they were worse,” or “God looks down time and says, ‘Okay, I know when [insert name here] is going to come to faith, so I choose them'” which is fore-ordination – that our behavior makes God calls us, and that breaks down in several places.

Ephesians 1:3-6 He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.He adopted us because of the kind intention of, not what we had done, but what He intended to do.

1 Peter 2:9 The illustration of the arch (Alan Redpath):

All of humanity is going along and they’re all going to hell. Imagine lines of people going over the Brooklyn Bridge, and they’re all headed to hell. Somewhere along that bridge is an arch and above the arch it says, “Who soever will.” Some choose to take a turn and walk through that arch. They have responded to the call of Christ and are now believers. Humanity is still on its way to hell, but these arches along the way invite, “Whosoever will.” Once you’ve walked through the arch, along the way you come to understand your salvation – you’ve trusted Christ to do for you what you cannot do for yourself and you are saved. How? It wasn’t because you and I are smarter than anyone else. We had an encounter with the living God and walked through the arch, so to speak, we believed in Him and responded to the call. Looking back on the arch you walked through, on the backside is inscribed “chosen before the foundation of the world.” What that illustration means to me is that the doctrines of election and predestination have no application except for the believer. I’m not looking at the backside of the arch and contemplating humanity wondering who’s saved and who isn’t, who’s elect and who isn’t. I’m looking at the front of the arch and going, “everybody is invited. Whosoever will.”

The offer isn’t made only to the elect, but only the elect accept the offer.

Where we get tangled in this mess is when we stop in the middle of the arch and try to figure it out.

We have to go through the arch and trust Christ. It’s hard to parse out these scriptures and decide these doctrines aren’t applicable or accurate. But the more important application, to me, is why did He choose me? And what will I do with it? How do I serve God?

We respond by faith.

 

33:05 Why do people say that God will provide all the time? Money, home, resources, things like that – yet we all know homeless Christians exist, why aren’t they provided for? Why doesn’t God show up for these people but others do, people giving money, things like that?

Genesis 22:6-10 Abraham called the name of that place “the Lord will provide”

Jehovah Jireh is the Hebrew of “The Lord will provide”

That’s probably where we picked up this nomenclature.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – God will provide a way of escape (from temptation).

Theology of God providing:

He provided an offering. He provides a way out of temptation.

When we see homeless people, mentally and terminally ill people, people who’ve made terrible choices or have been the victim of others’ terrible choices and we say, “Why doesn’t the Lord provide for them?”

Let’s go back to a human lens v. a heavenly lens: we’re all fallen people, broken creatures in a broken world. Bad things happen.

When you and I see these individuals who have needs, the Christian community has an opportunity to meet some of those needs. But understand, you can give a person a fish or teach them to fish. And that’s important.

But our goal is to produce disciples, not just be a social workforce that will never solve the core issues (Christ said the poor will always be among us).

That’s not an excuse to do nothing, but if we overcompensate and try to do everything, we’d never stem the tide. There’s a balance for each person according to our gifts, calling, passion – how can God use you and me? God’s not going to provide for all of our ills. We’re all going to die, be sick at times, and have bad things happen. Does that mean God short-shifted us? Nope.

We’re broken creatures in a broken world, and faith means living faithfully in spite of that – even when the Lord may not “provide” the way we’d choose.

Michael Easley

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.



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