Studying the Bible involves asking questions and searching for answers. Here are examples of Bible questions and answers published in Discern magazine.
We began publishing “Q & A: Answers to Your Biblical Questions” in the November/December 2021 issue of Discern, a Magazine of Life, Hope & Truth. The answers were written by a team of ministers of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, who take care of the questions submitted to our “Ask a Question” form.
If you have questions and would like a personal answer, you can submit them at LifeHopeandTruth.com/ask-a-question.
Here are the questions and answers published so far.
Questions and Answers from the November/December 2023 Discern
Question: I wonder if there will be an all-out war over the Temple Mount in these times since the Muslims consider it one of their most holy places, as do the Jews. The Jews would need the Temple Mount to either erect a new temple, or even build an altar, but the Muslims won’t allow it. Many professing Christians are specifically looking for a third temple, which, from the way I understand prophecy, won’t be built until after Christ returns.
Answer: The Jews haven’t made a daily sacrifice since A.D. 70 (when the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed) almost 2,000 years ago. But, in order for the prophecy in Daniel 12:11 to be fulfilled, daily sacrifices must be reestablished. The idea that Jews would once again sacrifice in Jerusalem was laughable until 1948, when Israel once again became a nation, and 1967, when the Israelis captured Jerusalem.
However, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque now sit on the Temple Mount, which is a huge sticking point. The Muslim religious authorities won’t allow Jewish people on one of their most sacred sites, in order to build a temple and offer daily sacrifices.
There is a radical fringe organization, called the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, that has spearheaded a movement to build another temple and establish the daily sacrifices. You can read more about this in our blog post “Does Bible Prophecy Require a Third Temple to Be Built?”
Occasionally there have been attempts by Jews to access the Temple Mount so they can offer sacrifices. They have always been stopped.
Is a temple required for daily sacrifices? Actually, there is a precedent in the Bible for offering sacrifices without a temple. In Ezra 3:1-6, those returning from Babylon built an altar and started daily sacrifices before they actually built the second temple itself.
So, we see that several aspects of this prophecy are ready. But there needs to be a dramatic change of some sort that would allow religious Jews access to the Temple Mount so that they can begin sacrifices. We should definitely be keeping an eye on this situation, but for now, there’s still an uneasy stalemate.
Question: Who is Abaddon the destroyer in Revelation 9?
Answer: Abaddon and Apollyon, Hebrew and Greek names meaning “Destruction” and “Destroyer” in Revelation 9:11, are believed to be additional names for Lucifer. The King James Bible Commentary offers this opinion on “king over them” in Revelation 9:11:
“Although locusts have no king, these revelatory locusts have one who is identified as the ‘angel of the bottomless pit.’ Moreover, this king’s name is given in both Hebrew (Abaddon) and Greek (Apollyon). Some interpreters believe the angel of the abyss is someone other than Satan, whereas others hold that they are one and the same being. Probably the latter is to be preferred.”
We believe these two names describe different attributes of the same being, Satan the devil.
To learn more about Satan, read our article “Satan: A Profile.”
Question: Regarding your blog post “Is It a Sin to Cuss?” you’re right that God wants us to keep foul and vulgar language out of our mouths and vocabulary. Is it okay to use harmless expressions also known as “euphemisms”? For example, how about “dang it”?
Answer: Christians should generally avoid words that are euphemisms for curse words. The example you bring up is actually a euphemism for damn, which is a shortened form of condemn. Condemnation belongs only to God and is very serious, thus Christians should not use it flippantly as a curse or a casual expression.
You’ll find a table of euphemisms for God’s name that you should avoid in our article “Should a Christian Avoid Euphemisms for God?” Let us know if you have further questions.
Questions and Answers from the September/October 2023 Discern
Question: If it is true that this world belongs to Satan—we see his footprints everywhere—was this the world that God said He so loved and gave His only begotten Son for?
Answer: Yes, the people of this world who are currently under the sway of Satan (1 John 5:19) are the very people that God gave His only begotten Son for.
That may seem illogical at first glance. Why would God give the life of His Son for people following the lead of an evil being, Satan the devil?
But it is those who have been led astray into a life of sin (that means all of us, Romans 3:23) who need the sacrifice of the Son of God. We need it to atone for our sins so that after repentance of sin, we can have everlasting life in a much better world. God loved us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Why?
God does not love people in the world because of their current state (living a life of sin under the sway of Satan), but because of the future He foresees for them once they see their sins (1 John 2:15-17), repent and are redeemed through the sacrifice of Christ.
God knows the end from the beginning. He sees the potential in us, and He plans to give us the help we need to reach our full potential as children in His family.
Currently, the majority of the world is under the influence of Satan without even knowing it: “Whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
God has allowed the blinding of the minds of the vast majority of mankind for now. But in His perfect timing, He will open the mind of each individual and give him or her the opportunity to learn about the sacrifice of Christ and how to live as a result of it.
God’s plan to help us achieve the destiny He has planned for us starts with His offering us the sacrifice of His only begotten Son to pay the penalty of our sins, but it doesn’t stop there. He also gives us the help we need to overcome the sway of Satan, the ways of the world and our own personal shortcomings.
For more related to this topic, explore the following materials on our website:
- “What Does John 3:16 Mean?”
- “Sacrifice of Jesus.”
- “God vs. Satan: The Battle of the Ages.”
- “God Allows Evil—But for How Long?”
- “The Plan to End Evil.”
Question: How is it that both Elijah and Moses are talking with Jesus when Jesus is transfigured? Did they die and come back, or were they in heaven all this time, or were they a mirage?
Answer: No, Moses and Elijah did not come back alive. They both had died long before this event. The account of the transfiguration is found in Matthew 17. Verse 9 gives us the answer to how they spoke with Jesus.
Following the transfiguration, Peter, James and John came down from the mountain. As they did, Jesus “commanded them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.’”
So, the appearance of Moses and Elijah to the three disciples and to Jesus was a vision. These two prophets were not literally present.
As our article “What Is the Transfiguration of Jesus?” explains, the disciples did not literally see “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). Nor were Moses and Elijah literally present. Through this supernatural vision, the three disciples were given a brief visual image of what will occur at the end of the age when Jesus Christ will return in power and glory (Matthew 24:30). In the transfiguration they also witnessed that when Jesus returns, He will resurrect Old Testament heroes, such as Moses and Elijah, who will also be present in that Kingdom.
Questions and Answers from the May/June 2023 Discern
Question: I was told that speaking in tongues is your heavenly language, and I have done it a few times, but I don’t do it often. I just want to confirm that in your article you said it wasn’t from God? Can you please explain why? I don’t want to do anything that is not pleasing to God. I’m a new believer, and I want to make sure I’m not heading down a path of confusion on what’s from God and what is not.
Answer: The topic of speaking in tongues has confused many over the years. We know from Acts 2 that when the Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost in A.D. 31, those who received the Spirit first spoke in tongues (Acts 2:1-4). But as we read further into this chapter, we see that tongues refers to speaking or hearing in foreign languages. Every member of the audience heard them speak in his or her own native language (verses 8-11). This was a miracle to draw attention to this special event.
Contrary to what many believe today, Scripture does not describe the ability to speak in tongues as the proof that a Christian has the Holy Spirit. Notice this excerpt from the conclusion of our article “What Is Speaking in Tongues?”:
“The gift of ‘speaking in tongues’ (languages) is not the criterion that proves whether one has the Holy Spirit. There are other spiritual gifts, such as the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8), that come through God’s Holy Spirit. Also, the fruit—the result of having God’s Spirit—is that one will display love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in his or her life (Galatians 5:22-23).”
While many people today believe that they must be able to “speak in tongues” to prove that they have the Holy Spirit, that simply is not true according to the Bible. God’s Holy Spirit is made evident by the fruit shown in a Christian’s life. (See our article “How Do You Know You Have the Holy Spirit?”)
Did you know that Paul gave instructions and a warning about speaking in tongues? He warned that when we speak in a foreign language (tongues), unless there is someone who can interpret or translate, we should keep silent (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). It doesn’t make sense that someone would just blurt out unintelligible noises during a church service. That would be chaotic, and God is not the author of confusion (verse 33).
It is God’s plan for us to repent, be baptized, receive His Spirit and then be transformed in mind to become more and more like Him. By praying for, yielding to and stirring up the Spirit, we will see the spiritual growth that assures us God’s Spirit is working in us. For a helpful step-by-step look at this process, download and read our free booklet Change Your Life.
If you are interested, we recommend you read the following related articles for continued study:
Question: What is the Church of God’s stance on the Book of Jasher? I have some Torah observer friends who want me to read it.
Answer: The “Book of Jasher” is mentioned twice in the Bible, in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18. It seems it could have been a collection of songs about Israel’s wars, but it was not chosen to be preserved as part of the Bible. Scholars believe the Book of Jasher, like other sources mentioned in the Bible, has been lost over the millennia, and “no part of it has survived” (NKJV Study Bible note on Joshua 10:13).
There are various books today that have the name Book of Jasher, but scholars say none of these are the actual ancient book referred to in the Bible.
Questions and Answers from the March/April 2023 Discern
Question: Is Passover the same as Unleavened Bread?
Answer: Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are two separate and distinct festivals. The Bible introduces Passover as a one-day festival (Exodus 12:6-11; Leviticus 23:5) followed by the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15-17; Leviticus 23:6-8). However, over time the entire period came to be lumped together and often called Passover, as it is still often called today.
Modern calendars may show Passover on the first day of Unleavened Bread, based on Jewish practice. However, we do not believe the Scriptures support the Passover being on the 15th day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar. In fact, there isn’t a single reference to the Passover that even mentions the 15th day of the month as being part of the observance.
The term Passover is found in 73 verses in the New King James Version. Every reference to the Passover where a date is mentioned shows it taking place on the 14th day of the first month.
See “Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread” on our website for a short description of both of these festivals, with links to articles that offer more.
Question: Please can you tell me more about the Passover?
Answer: The New Testament Passover is the annual observance of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Baptized members of the Church of God participate in the elements of the New Testament Passover, including foot washing (John 13:1-15) and taking the symbols of unleavened bread and wine, representing Christ’s beaten body and shed blood (Luke 22:19-20).
These symbols remind us of the need to continue in our lives as Christians and to realize that it is only by the grace and mercy of God that we can have our sins forgiven and learn to overcome sins and temptations.
For more detailed information, see these online articles and look up the verses quoted:
- “What Is the Passover, and Why Is It Important?”
- “Passover in the New Testament.”
- “Passover: What Did Jesus Do for You?”
- “Passover and Forgiveness.”
Question: You say that you will answer a question “the best you can.” Does that mean that some questions are unanswerable?
Answer: Absolutely—there are some questions we would like to have answers to that the Bible simply is not definitive about. Even the prophet Daniel had questions that were not answered during his time (Daniel 12:8-9).
We shouldn’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” when God’s Word doesn’t give a clear answer to a specific question we have. At the same time, we should trust that God does give us answers to the questions we need to know the answers to. Scripture contains the answers we need in order “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
It takes discernment to know the difference between what we need to know and what we want to know. It takes faith to trust in God’s wisdom when we find questions that are the latter.
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Answers to today’s “unanswerable” questions will one day come. What we’re left to ponder is, Do I know the answers to the questions He wants me to understand today?
Question: What is Ash Wednesday, and what is its significance?
Answer: Like many other observances in mainstream Christianity today, Ash Wednesday cannot be found in the Bible because it’s simply not there.
If you do a Google search on “origins of Ash Wednesday,” you can find many sources that give the history of how and when it made its way into religious observance. For instance, a Christianity Today article from Aug. 8, 2008, states:
“Until the 600s, Lent began on Quadragesima (Fortieth) Sunday, but Gregory the Great (c. 540-604) moved it to a Wednesday, now called Ash Wednesday, to secure the exact number of 40 days in Lent—not counting Sundays, which were feast days. Gregory, who is regarded as the father of the medieval papacy, is also credited with the ceremony that gives the day its name. As Christians came to the church for forgiveness, Gregory marked their foreheads with ashes reminding them of the biblical symbol of repentance (sackcloth and ashes) and mortality: ‘You are dust, and to dust you will return’ (Gen 3:19).”
It took another couple of centuries before it became known as Ash Wednesday. Interestingly, several sources point out the close similarity between Ash Wednesday and ancient pagan practices.
We have an article on our website related to Lent and Ash Wednesday that you may find interesting: “Mardi Gras: Should It Be on the Christian Calendar?”
The Church of God, a Worldwide Association, does not celebrate Ash Wednesday, Lent or Easter because God does not command them. However, the Bible does list festivals that God says we are to keep. “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts”’” (Leviticus 23:1-2).
It’s rather remarkable how the holy days and festivals of the Bible have been largely forgotten or ignored as they have been replaced by practices borrowed from other religions! Our free, downloadable booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You gives much more information.
Question: Why don’t you have more local churches?
Answer: We establish congregations once there are a sufficient number of members in an area. It is God who calls people to understand and respond (John 6:44), and we are happy to follow through, making disciples as Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
“I will build My church,” Jesus said, “and the gates of Hades [the grave] shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). In other words, He promised that His Church would never die out.
However, He also prophesied the rise of counterfeit churches throughout the ages (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Acts 20:29-30). In comparison to these other churches, His description of the original group of disciples proved prophetic, for He called them a “little flock” (Luke 12:32). The Church of God has always remained small in comparison to others, but Christ has kept His promise. His Church has survived, and it continues today.
Notice this excerpt from our article “What Is the Church?”:
Who calls someone to be part of God’s Church? The Lord adds to the Church those who are being saved (Acts 2:47). It is God, through Jesus Christ, who adds to His Church (John 6:44).
People cannot simply build a building and call it the church, as so many try to do. Rather, a person is called by God and answers that call, like a person answers a call on the phone. A true Christian is a person God has selected and “called out.”
The process isn’t simply “joining the church of your choice.” You cannot simply choose to join His Church—but must be called by God, through Jesus Christ, before making that commitment.
The rest of the article addresses many other questions regarding what the Bible says about the Church.
To get to know more about the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, visit the “Who We Are” page, which includes a link to our Fundamental Beliefs. We do have many congregations in about 50 countries around the world. The “Congregations” page on our cogwa.org website includes a full list of our locations.
Questions and Answers from the January/February 2023 Discern
Question: Does your church celebrate Christmas?
Answer: Members of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, the sponsor of the Life, Hope & Truth website, do not celebrate Christmas. We do observe the feasts of God as found in the Bible. (See our video series “Feasts of the Lord.”) We have many articles that explain why we do not celebrate Christmas, showing the pagan origin of this holiday and its customs. These articles include:
- “Christmas: Should Christians Celebrate It?”
- “Jesus Christ vs. Christmas.”
- “Holy Days vs. Holidays.”
Question: What is the reason that [the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, doesn’t] celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Answer: The answer is really similar to why we don’t celebrate many other holidays accepted as “Christian” today. Even though most people wouldn’t associate Valentine’s Day as a “Christian” holiday, the origins behind the day are pagan, and God clearly says to avoid such practices.
There is a really helpful article that speaks directly to your question and provides some background to this holiday: “Valentine’s Day Is Pagan? So What?” Here is an excerpt:
The origin, though somewhat murky, is generally accepted as follows:
The ancient Roman festival Lupercalia is considered to be one precursor to Valentine’s Day. It was celebrated from Feb. 13-15 as a purification and fertility ceremony.
“To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.
“They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year.
“Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage” (History.com).
“The Roman romantics ‘were drunk. They were naked,’ says Noel Lenski, now a religious studies professor at Yale University, told NPR in 2011. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile” (NPR).
The article goes on to explain how the Catholic Church later attempted to convert this fertility festival into a Christian holiday. While Valentine’s Day is now portrayed as a harmless day for romance, the historical ties and pagan fertility practices associated with it make it yet another holiday that God would not want His people to adopt as if it were a trivial thing.
Question: How can I overcome a difficult financial situation?
Answer: Since we do not know your exact circumstances, we’d like to point you to few general articles that may be of help. First, see “4 Ways to Find Joy in Trials” and “Why Am I Suffering?” for help and encouragement, which you need in facing these trials.
For more practical help and possible solutions, see the “Foundational Principles for Managing Family Finances” section of our website. After you read this introductory article, please scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a series of articles on finances, including:
Take the time to go through these articles prayerfully. There is a lot of great advice from the Bible on how to handle your family and finances.
We have prayed for God to guide you through your financial difficulties.
Question: Why did the angel Michael dispute over the body of Moses in Jude 1:9?
Answer: Our article “Michael the Archangel” provides an answer for you.
When you read through the book of Jude, the main subject (verse 8) is about evil men who “defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.” Verse 9 reads: “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Verses 16-19 add that these evil men are grumblers, complainers, boastful, mockers who cause division.
The article above states:
“Jude’s subject was ungodly men who rejected legitimate authority and spoke evil of dignitaries. Jude pointed out that even the great archangel Michael would not engage in hurling epithets or harsh judgments at Satan, but rather would defer to God (Satan’s superior) to deal with him. Jude sets this example for us to follow.”
Why was there a dispute about Moses’ body? Possibly, Satan was trying to take the body to deceive the people into worshipping it as a relic. It seems Michael’s task was to keep Satan from doing this.
Question: A lot of folks believe they go to heaven upon their death. I cannot find in the Bible where this is mentioned. I personally do not believe that we do.
Answer: You are correct that the Bible does not teach that people go to heaven upon their death.
As common and popular as the belief is, the idea that one goes to heaven or hell after death is not biblical.
Rather, the Bible speaks of death as a deep, dreamless sleep (Psalm 13:3; Ecclesiastes 9:5). There is no consciousness (Ecclesiastes 9:10)—no pain or suffering, no awareness of the passage of time—and then when Jesus Christ returns, there will be a resurrection of the “dead in Christ” from that “sleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Later there will also be a resurrection of “the rest of the dead” (Revelation 20:5).
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23). We are given hope and comfort with these scriptures.
Questions and Answers from the November/December 2022 Discern
Question: My son-in-law is addicted to a game and spends hours playing it at the expense of his family, and his work has suffered too. Please let me know what help there is for him.
Answer: We’re sorry for the struggle you and your family are experiencing. Our world is seemingly full of addictions, including the addiction to computer gaming.
As you are already seeing, a gaming addiction can indeed cause serious problems for relationships, work and even the health of the gamer, both mentally and physically. Hard-core gamers may be playing the game five or more hours a day (and night) every day. When they aren’t working, eating or sleeping, they are playing the game. And often, even when they are doing something else, they are still thinking about the game. It isn’t just a hobby; it is an obsession that is taking over their lives.
One of the consequences of any kind of addiction is the terrible impact it has on other aspects of life. When this begins to happen, many will respond with anger. They don’t see what they are doing as a problem, and they can’t understand why anyone else would have a problem with it or fail to be supportive of them and their “hobby”!
That really hits at the heart of the issue—they don’t see their behavior as a problem.
As with any kind of addict, the first step to recovery for gaming addicts is to admit they have a problem! If your son-in-law is not yet at that point, you cannot go any further. Sometimes family members can talk with the addict and help him or her to see the problem, and sometimes family members are not effective. (This could reflect that old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt.”)
But one way or another, before your son-in-law can break the addiction, he somehow has to come to see how the game has taken over his life and how it is destroying much of what is good and wholesome in his life.
We have an excellent article on our website titled “The Dark Side of Gaming.” I encourage you to read it, and if your son-in-law is at all open to reading it, give him the link or print it off for him. See also “Confronting Addiction” and related articles for additional information that can help.
Question: How can we lose our salvation by not obeying God, if the Bible says that we are not saved by our good doings or following the law, instead we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ?
Answer: Paul showed the necessity of God’s grace and faith (Ephesians 2:8). No works that we could ever do could pay the penalty for our past sins. Nothing we could ever do could earn salvation. But the apostle Paul also told the Philippians to continue to obey and to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
If you read both passages more closely—and put them together with the other teachings about salvation throughout the Bible—you find that they all work together. Here is a brief excerpt from our article “Once Saved, Always Saved?”:
“We compared the process of conversion to buying a home. But it’s more like being given a galaxy! Nothing we could do would ever pay for it. But, by God’s grace, we can receive this gift freely.
“Still, receiving this gift requires that we show that we really want it by continually drawing closer to God and removing sin. It requires seeking not to disgust the Great Giver with our evil actions, but seeking to please Him by obeying His rules, which are really for our own benefit.
“God wants us to follow His instructions to us with a deep love for Him from our heart. Loving God entails keeping His commandments. John 14:15 states, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments.’”
Read the rest of this article to get a fuller biblical picture of salvation. You may also be interested in “Saved by Grace; Created for Good Works” and the articles in the “Law and Grace” section of our website.
Questions and Answers from the September/October 2022 Discern
Question: Thank you for such insightful exposition of the feasts of God [in “Journey 3: The Plan of God”]. Frankly, I had never looked at them in the way you have expounded! And linking them with our Christian journey is just amazing. After reading your explanation of the Feast of Trumpets, my questions are these:
- Does this mean all saints who will be alive then will have to go through the Great Tribulation period characterized by the seven trumpets?
- Is it only after the seventh trumpet that the “rapture” will happen and the first resurrection will occur? I have, rightly or wrongly, always believed that the rapture will happen before the Great Tribulation. Please help clarify this matter.
Answer: It is exciting to see how the steps in God’s plan of salvation are pictured in the seven annual feasts of the Lord. The Feast of Trumpets is indeed a pivotal one, picturing a number of end-time events around the return of Jesus Christ.
The Bible talks about some saints being martyred (Revelation 6:9-11; 12:11), but others being protected for 3½ years during the Great Tribulation (verse 14). Our article “Place of Safety” will give you more biblical information about this. You may be surprised to find that the Bible talks about this place of safety on earth, but it does not talk about a secret rapture to heaven. You can learn more about this in our article “Will There Be a Secret Rapture?”
The first resurrection will occur at the sounding of the seventh trumpet at the return of Jesus Christ. You can read more about this in our articles “When Will Jesus Return?” and “What Are the Resurrections?”
Question: What do these festivals [Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles] represent?
Answer: The biblical festivals of the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles represent parts of God’s plan of salvation. To learn more about these festivals, you can watch the following videos in our “Feasts of the Lord” video series:
- “Atonement: The Root of the Problem.”
- “Tabernacles: Somewhere to Belong.”
- “Last Great Day: Hope Remains.”
You may also be interested in reading “The Symbolism of the Day of Atonement,” “Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles and the Eighth Day” and “What Is the Feast of Tabernacles?”
Question: Is the Eighth Day separate from the Feast of Tabernacles since it pictures the time after the Millennium is finished?
Answer: Yes. The Bible shows the Eighth Day (also known as the Last Great Day) is a separate festival from the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36, 39). The seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles symbolize the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ and the resurrected saints (Revelation 20:4-6). The Eighth Day represents the period after the Millennium called the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-12).
To learn more about this period after the Millennium, please read “The Last Great Day: The Final Harvest.”
Questions and Answers from the July/August 2022 Discern
Question: What if I’ve tried to stop sinning, but I can’t?
Answer: Sin is easy to repeat since Satan is constantly influencing us all to repeat our mistakes. This can be very frustrating. Even the apostle Paul felt this. He wrote in Romans 7:14-20:
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.
“But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”
Paul struggled with repeat sin as well. But please notice how he pushed forward: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (verses 24-25).
We do have a series of articles that deal with sin and how to overcome the persistent sins that can plague all of us. Please start with “Repentance: What Does Repent Mean?” This lead article starts the series. We also recommend you read “How to Stop Habitual Sin” and “Dealing With Sins That Won’t Go Away.”
You will find much help and comfort in learning about true repentance and God’s magnificent power of forgiveness!
Question: Psalm 19:13 talks about “presumptuous sins.” What is presumptuous sin, and how can we avoid it or be aware of it and not commit it?
Answer: The New International Version translates “presumptuous sins” as “willful sins,” and the New Living Translation reads “deliberate sins.” Sinning deliberately, or willfully, would be in contrast to sinning because of weakness (and then deeply repenting) or sinning unknowingly.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary comments on Psalm 19:13: “The wicked sin in their arrogance and show no awareness of having done wrong. ‘Willful sins’ are those often attributed to the ‘arrogant’ (zedim), who have no regard for God (. . . ‘sins of self-will’).”
Notice that in the previous verse, David prayed to be forgiven of sins that are unknown to him. David’s point in verse 13 is to ask God for help to keep from sinning willfully and for help to be God’s servant and not a servant or slave to sin.
David’s prayer, asking God for help, is a good example of both how to be aware of sin and how to avoid sin. Daily prayer and study of God’s Word, the Bible, are important keys to being a servant of God and not a slave to sin.
We have several articles that can be helpful in explaining the nature of sin, how to repent of it and how to avoid it. These include:
Question: I am doing an 11-part Bible study by Life, Hope & Truth that’s downloadable by PDF, that’s followed by a quiz. I want to recommend it to a friend. What link would I use to forward this study to her?
Answer: We’re glad to hear you’re enjoying our Bible Study Course. You can share this course by sending the following link to your friend: https://bsc.lifehopeandtruth.com/. Your friend can click on the “Enroll” button to get started.
Questions and Answers from the May/June 2022 Discern
Question: What are we supposed to do at Pentecost? We see two loaves of bread mentioned, and repenting and praying, but what outlines can we get from the Bible? Are there any special things that we need to do?
Answer: The festival of Pentecost is included in the plan of God to show the start of the New Testament Church and the giving of the Holy Spirit to the people God has chosen to be His own. We are told that the waving of the loaves in the Old Testament pictured something very special: “They are the firstfruits to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:17).
The Church now is made up of people that God calls His firstfruits. We see that in several scriptures in the New Testament:
- “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4, emphasis added throughout).
- “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:18).
Ancient Israel would have seen the ceremony of waving the loaves as a gesture of thankfulness for their harvest. We understand the spiritual intent that God is reaping a small harvest today by calling people into His Church.
Pentecost is an annual holy day, so we do not do our regular work on that day. The prescribed thing we are to do is also discussed in Leviticus 23. “And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations” (verse 21).
A convocation is a gathering or an assembly, and so we attend church services on that day. We bring ourselves (the firstfruits) into His assembly, listen to messages about the meaning of Pentecost and thank God for the gift of His Holy Spirit and His Church.
Take the time to read some of our material about Pentecost, such as “3 Ways Pentecost Shows Us the Future.” These helpful insights will deepen your understanding of this special festival.
Question: I need to know more about parenting.
Answer: Parenting is a very important topic to learn more about! We recommend you explore the articles in the “Parenting” section of our website, especially:
- “Parenting Advice.”
- “Raising Children.”
- “Helping Our Children Grow.”
- “How to Help Your Children Build a Relationship With God.”
At the bottom of each article you’ll find a list of related articles. Please let us know if you have further questions about any of our resources or biblical topics.
Question: What original part of the Bible was written by God Himself?
Answer: If you are asking what was actually inscribed by God, the only thing we know of are the two tablets of stone on which God wrote the 10 Commandments (Exodus 24:12). For the Bible, God used human instruments to record the books as He inspired them.
The apostle Paul affirmed that all Scripture was given by the direct inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16). That means it all came directly from the mind of God. It is the mind of God in print!
If you’d like to look into the writing and preservation of the Bible, please read:
- “Who Wrote the Bible?”
- “The Power of the Word of God, God’s Instruction Manual.”
- “The Uniqueness of the Bible.”
Questions and Answers from the March/April 2022 Discern
Question: I am looking into baptism and laying on of hands. What is the order of these sacraments? Where do I repent, for example?
Answer: The apostle Peter summarized the main steps in the process of conversion in Acts 2:38: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Repentance is a personal process of learning what God defines as sin and recognizing our personal sins. Repentance is a change of heart and change of direction. It involves a determination to stop sinning and not to sin in the future. So, in private prayer to God, we ask for His forgiveness and commit to obeying Him.
The Bible teaches that baptism is a ceremony every truly repentant person must go through to have his or her sins forgiven and to start living the converted way of life. A minister will counsel with a person requesting baptism, and the repentant person who has counted the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:27-33) will be baptized by being fully immersed in water.
After the baptism, the minister will put his hands on the person and pray for God to grant His Holy Spirit to the person. In the New King James Version of the Bible you will find this called the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17; Hebrews 6:1-2). You can learn more in our article “Laying On of Hands.”
Our free booklet Change Your Life rounds up the key scriptures about repentance, faith, baptism, the Holy Spirit and conversion.
Question: I was baptized in a church in Japan, and they pulled me out before my whole head was submerged in water, which is bothering me. I was also told by the pastor that only those who are given a position in the church can receive the laying on of hands. I don’t think there are any churches in Japan where you can receive the laying on of hands. If possible, I would like to go to America and be baptized again. I would also like to receive the laying on of hands. Is it a problem to be baptized again?
Answer: You are correct that the Bible teaches complete immersion under water as a symbol of the complete burial of what the apostle Paul called the “old man” (Romans 6:6). This is explained in our biblical articles “What Do the Symbols of Baptism Mean?” and “Putting to Death the Old Man: What Does That Mean?”
You are also correct that the Bible teaches the laying on of hands as the method God uses for imparting the Holy Spirit after baptism. An example of the laying on of hands is in Acts 8:14-17 (see also our article “Laying On of Hands”).
The Bible also mentions examples of some who were rebaptized in Acts 19:1-6. You can study more about the subject of rebaptism in our articles “Rebaptism: Why Would You Be Baptized Again?” and “Reasons to Get Baptized Again.”
The ministers of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, do practice water baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands. Though we do not currently have a pastor in Japan, we do have congregations in 50 countries, and we have a senior pastor who has regularly traveled throughout Asia. You can find a list of all of our congregations and contact information for the pastors on our Congregations page. And, of course, you are welcome to visit us here in the United States.
Questions and Answers from the January/February 2022 Discern
Question: I am very disturbed by your article “Dante’s Un-Divine Comedy”! “What is hell?” is explained: “Hell in the Bible is the Greek Hades, which essentially refers to the grave. Contrary to Dante’s imaginary place of sadistic, eternal punishing, the grave is actually a peaceful, silent place.” Also, you say that “the Bible does not teach that righteous people go to heaven at death” and that “God’s plan includes offering eternal life to every member of the human family. This includes those who lived, died and returned to dust without developing a relationship with God.” You’re saying people get a second chance after death! What about to be “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” spoken by Paul?
Answer: We are very sorry to hear about your disappointment with our article about Dante’s imaginative poetry about the afterlife.
We strive to teach only what the Bible teaches, not the ideas of philosophers or theologians or poets outside of the Bible. We do not believe anyone will have a “second chance.” But the Bible does show that God is fair and merciful, and He wants everyone to have a first chance.
The apostle Paul wrote that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The apostle Peter wrote that God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
In the context of the rest of the Bible, we know this does not mean universal salvation, since some will choose to reject salvation and will experience “the second death” in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15). But God does want there to be a universal chance for repentance and salvation. We explain more about all this in our biblical article “Is God Fair?”
You mentioned Paul’s statement about being absent from the body. Our article “Absent From the Body, Present With the Lord?” looks at 2 Corinthians 5:8 and the context in detail. Paul taught a lot about the resurrection of the dead in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16. He was saying that after his death, in his next conscious moment, he would be resurrected and be with the Lord forever.
We certainly understand that the ideas about heaven and hell in the popular culture have been influenced by the ideas of men like Dante, but we believe a careful study of the Bible shows that God does have a clear, merciful and inspiring plan of salvation.
Our booklet The Last Enemy: What Really Happens After Death? goes through the scriptures on this topic in detail.
Question: Why are you a corporation?
Answer: The Church of God is a spiritual organization, but in order to legally operate and accomplish its work in this world, the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, has incorporated or sought other legal status in countries around the world. In the United States, we are incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization. This allows U.S. taxpayers to obtain a tax deduction for their donations. Feel free to let us know if you have further questions.
Question: Are the plagues of Revelation 16 things to happen during the end days?
Answer: Yes, the frightening plagues of Revelation 16 will happen on earth when Jesus Christ returns. They are explained in our article “What Are the Seven Last Plagues of Revelation?”
Questions and Answers from the November/December 2021 Discern
Question: We know Jesus came to earth. So, if we can’t arrive at an exact birth date, what’s the harm in assuming a date to worship the Savior?
Answer: While the exact date of Christ’s birth is not known, the pagan origins of Christmas and its customs are well-known. Even the date—Dec. 25—has a pagan history. Our blog post “Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?” outlines this history, mentioning, for instance:
“It is a widely known fact that in the fourth century the Catholic Church adopted the pagan celebration of the winter solstice and modified it. They decided to use it to worship the birth of the Son of God, instead of the sun god. ‘The winter solstice or Brumalia, by now the feast of Mithras and the Unconquered Sun, had been associated with the birth of Jesus in 354 by Bishop Liberius of Rome’ (A History of Pagan Europe, 1995, p. 76).”
But Christmas and its traditions are not the only example of paganism being mixed with worship of the true God. The Old Testament records that religious syncretism (the blending of different religious traditions) was a constant problem ancient Israel had.
Here’s the question we should ask: Does it matter to God if we designate a date of our choosing to worship Him by celebrating the birth of Jesus, especially when the date and customs of that celebration have a pagan history?
There is no biblical command to observe the birth of Christ, and there is no biblical record of the early New Testament Church celebrating Christmas. But how we worship God does matter to Him!
Notice God’s instructions in Deuteronomy 12:30-31: “Do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.”
God cares which days we worship Him on. God instructs us to celebrate “the feasts of the LORD” listed in Leviticus 23. Learn more about these meaningful days in our booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You.
Question: So how does a 70-year-old grandpa not spend Christmas with his wife, daughters and grandchildren? I only recently realized the truth about Christmas myself, and so far, my family has not accepted it.
Answer: The first thing you can do is lovingly and patiently explain to your family that you feel convicted that you should not celebrate Christmas.
Our article “Christmas: Should Christians Celebrate It?” offers several useful pointers under the subhead “How do I tell my relatives?” In addition, here are some other thoughts:
- Encourage family members that there are other times to give and receive gifts. Then be sure to do it—even putting it on your calendar!
- If they insist on giving you a gift, you may want to accept it rather than refuse it and possibly damage the relationship. Just accepting a gift doesn’t mean you are celebrating Christmas. Of course, if this bothers your conscience, don’t do it (Romans 14:23).
- Some have found it helpful to visit relatives at Thanksgiving or other times rather than Christmas.
- On Christmas some join family for the meal but forgo participation in other activities of the day.
Your family probably will not understand, even if it’s quite clear to you. In most cases, the best you can expect is that they will be accepting of your changed beliefs. Be patient with them—and ask God to help them be patient with you. If they genuinely want to know why you do not observe the holiday, you might direct them to our other helpful material, such as our blog post “Four Reasons Christmas Is Not Christian.” But it’s best not to offer until asked, or it can seem as if you are trying to push your view on them.
Resources for answering Bible questions
You can find answers to hundreds of Bible questions by searching this website. If you have questions and would like a personal answer, you can submit them using the “Ask a Question” link below.