Does the Bible Really Say That?

Does the Bible REALLY…

  1. outlaw the eating of blood? (Leviticus 17.10-12)
  2. condemn homosexuality? (Leviticus 18.22)
  3. teach that it’s a sin to have a shirt with two different kinds of thread in it? (Leviticus 19.19)
  4. condemn the boiling of a young goat in its mother’s milk? (Exodus 23.19)
  5. give the death penalty to people who work on Saturdays? (Exodus 31.14)
  6. give the death penalty to one who blasphemes the name of the Lord? (Numbers 24.16)
  7. condemn tattoos? (Leviticus 19.28)

If you look up those verses, you will find they do, indeed, teach all those things listed above. Many folks like to find these laws which seem weird, alien, and random to basically sweep away all the Bible teaches. “See?” they say, “the Bible is backwards and outdated. Why would we listen to that book any more?”

A base principle of Bible study is this: If God the Creator has spoken, then what He has to say trumps any feeling or thinking that I may have. In other words, it’s pretty silly of me to claim that a law is outdated just because I don’t agree with it or it doesn’t fit with my understanding of morality. Much of Bible study challenges my sense of right and wrong.

But another principle when studying any book is this: understand the context. Did God actually say those things? Yes. But to whom did He say them and when? Did God intend those laws for all mankind and for all time?

You will notice all the laws mentioned above are embedded in what is called the Law of Moses, the laws which Moses delivered to Israel at Mount Sinai. God covenanted with the Israelites, and the covenant comprised these laws plus hundreds of others. So the law given to Israel was for Israel and not for any other nation. The New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ fulfilled that law and abolished it, so God’s people today need no longer submit to all of those rules and regulations (Galatians 3.19-26; Hebrews 10.1-18).

However, some of God’s rules and regulations under the old covenant may actually apply to all mankind for all time. Here is where a full context of the Bible comes in handy. Especially in the context of moral law, we should pay close attention.

For instance, take list item number one (above): The Bible outlaws the eating of blood. We find this them running throughout Scripture:

  • God outlawed the eating of blood before the Law of Moses (Genesis 9.4)
  • God outlawed the eating of blood during the Law of Moses (Leviticus 17.10)
  • God outlawed the eating of blood after the Law of Moses (Acts 15.28-29)

So we find a consistent theme throughout the Bible on this moral principle: do not eat an animal with its blood. This moral principle transcends any specific law code, nation, or time period.

Likewise, take list item number two (above): The Bible condemns homosexuality. Notice how this theme runs through Scripture:

  • God judged Sodom in part for their homosexuality before the Law of Moses (Genesis 19.4-8)
  • God outlawed homosexuality as an abomination during the Law of Moses (Leviticus 20.13)
  • God condemned homosexuality as unnatural and indecent after the Law of Moses (Romans 1.26-27)

This consistent theme remains for homosexuality: it’s wickedness and sin before the Lord–always has been and always will be.

God set some laws in place for a specific period of time, intended them for a specific nation, and did not mean to apply them to everyone or for all time. But other laws, in the moral sphere, apply to all men no matter when or where they happen to live.

The bottom line is that God has all authority to tell His creation what is right and wrong. We often don’t like certain things God says…but obedience is not simply submitting to things we like! God’s character–who He is–determines morality. Those who reject what God says on the matter reject God Himself and show they do not know Him.

Time Markers in Apocalyptic Literature

Time PassingPerhaps one of the most misapplied passages of our time is Matthew 24, in which Jesus answers the disciples’ questions concerning the destruction of the Temple. Another greatly-abused scripture is the entire book of Revelation! Throw in a number of other Old and New Testament apocalyptic passages and you have an excellent recipe for outlandish and obscure results.

Ironically, Jesus warns several times in Matthew 24 against false Christs and false prophets who claim to know when the Lord is coming! Don’t listen to them, Jesus instructs. We ought to pay close attention to what Jesus articulates and block out the massive volume of junk interpretations of what He meant.

One helpful interpretive device is the time markers the speaker or author reveals. For instance, if you wonder exactly when the events of Matthew 24.1-35 (and possibly extending through verse 44 or beyond) take place, examine the context for time markers from the Lord. In the greater context, Jesus warns in the previous chapter of the fall of Jerusalem: “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23.36). When? Within a generation from the time Jesus spoke the words. In the immediate context, we find 24.34: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” What things will take place? Return to the beginning of the chapter in which Jesus boldly proclaimed that the great temple would be torn down, “not one stone shall be left here upon another,” and include all He said with reference to that event up through verse 34.

Those terrible judgments would happen in their generation. Jesus was not speaking of something 2000+ years in the future, so we should not be looking for these signs today.

Also, John reveals time markers in Revelation to which we should pay heed. In the very first verse John marks for us, “things which must shortly take place.” How misleading if what he meant by “shortly” was “in a couple of thousand years.”

Sand FallingAgain he writes in Revelation 1.3, “for the time is near.”

Revelation is addressed to the seven churches of Asia (1.4, 11), which collectively probably symbolize the overall Christian church in the first century; nevertheless, they were actual, historical churches, and Jesus targeted His seven letters of Revelation 2-3 to those specific churches. John then records all the wild visions Jesus gives him and ends the book with several statements of Jesus, “Behold, I am coming quickly!” (22.7, 12) and “Surely I am coming quickly” (22.20). The time marker at the end of the book reflects the first chapter: “And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place” (22.6).

While I don’t believe Matthew 24 and Revelation deal with the same judgment, they both use similar language, sometimes quoting the exact same Old Testament passages or using the same judgment symbols. Both speak of Jesus coming in judgment and Him coming quickly. Both indicate a time frame within about a generation. If we interpret those scriptures in the time frames they themselves present, we will find ourselves on a firmer foundation than if we attempt to apply those things to our period of history thousands of years later!

Take care to interpret Scripture using Scriptural time frames.