Why Do We Try to Make the Bible Say Stuff It Just Does Not Say?
"Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God suppliesin order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 4:11, ESV).
Does that verse say what I think it says? Whatever it is we do or say, the purpose is to insure God gets the glory. ...in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ is the text. That word everything is no slip of the tongue. The Holy Spirit knew what He was inspiring to be written and preserved throughout eternity. He said everything and He meant everything. We are to do, and God is to get the glory for His revealing to us what it is we are to do.
In studying the Bible, too often we approach it with a preconceived idea of what it is supposed to say, and then base every conclusion on that preconception. One example of this is verses three thru ten of Matthew 5, which we call the Beatitudes. They are so labeled as that word relates to a state of being blessed, which is the first word of each of those piercing statements. In some dictionaries, the emphasis word used to define the state of being blessed is happy. Is Jesus really saying that if we master the art of making peace and thus show our discipleship, that He will grant to us that we will be happy? Did he do what He did so we can be happy? Happy! Happy! Happy! Does anyone really believe this? Yet, how many times do we read or hear that the word blessed means happy simply because the dictionaries and lexicons say that is what the word means? Jesus was promising us that if we attained to the selfless righteousness described in such terms as poverty of spirit, meek, merciful, and mournful, we would indeed be elevated among men as children of God, able to enter the kingdom of Heaven, satisfied, comforted, and able to see God Himself. While I would consider such experiences as producing great happiness, the elevated state of blessing goes far beyond mere human pleasure.
What is the impetus of Luke 16:19-31? Is Jesus providing for us the end all discussion of eschatology? Is His teaching intending to illuminate us on what happens between the time we die and the time we are raised? Are we really supposed to care? Before labeling me as blasphemous, read on. If it is in Gods word, we are to care. Some things the story of the rich man and Lazarus does not say:
How did the rich man acquire his wealth? Do we know? Are we supposed to care? Does the story tell us? The implication is that these two men were rewarded and punished based on their physical prosperity. Could that be true? Is there anything stated in the text that tells us of their character or their relative faith or obedience to God? We have to assume the rich man was unscrupulous and that the poor man was meek and filled with faith, but the text nowhere says that. Does God reward or punish men based on their earthly state of wealth? We know that is not the case.
Is Abraham the guardian of paradise? Jesus attributes the response to the begging of the tormented man to Abraham. If this account is the end all discussion most apply it to be, then Abraham would be a simple resident of this place as he was just a man who lived and died in faith. His statement to the rich man explains only that the poor man suffered in life and the rich man fared well in life and that the roles are reversed in this so-called by man, state of the dead.
The text also does not tell us that this is intended to be a discussion of all we need to know about life after death. Yet, any time you read or hear anyone talking about life after death, we run to Luke 16.
Is it not a preferred understanding of the text to let is say what it says? It says that there is a division after death and that there is no way to bridge that separation. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us (Luke 16:26). When does Jesus teach us that the separation of the righteous from the wicked will take place? When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-32). People want to think of us safe in the arms of Jesus at the moment of our death. While that is quite comforting, it just is not Biblical.
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, ESV). Certainly these are encouraging, and, as in most translations, comforting words. We ridicule the premillenialist for making this passage say what it does not say. Their contention is that this speaks of a rapture to usher in the period of the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth. Do you see the word rapture here? Is that a biblical word? Will there be a 1,000 year reign of Jesus on a throne in Jerusalem? Is there scripture to support an affirmative answer to any of these questions? Let the Bible say what the Bible says. While the claim of the premillenialist is deemed ridiculous, would not the same be true if we do not allow the Bible to simply say what it says?
The truth of Luke 16 is that Jesus relates an account to teach a lesson. The focus of this lesson is that sin sick man would have the opportunity to escape eternal punishment by hearing the words of a man who had been raised from the dead. That man was Jesus Christ. I know the text does not say this, but is there another man raised from the dead whose words could lead to eternal life? Abrahams lament was that if people would not read and hear the words of Moses, neither would they hear the words of the man raised from the dead. Moses wrote of Jesus. "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me" (John 5:45-46). Abraham told the tormented man the same thing. "He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead'" (Luke 16:31).
Many have said that division among Gods people has occurred more on what the Bible does not say rather than what it says. May we never be so guilty as to make such a mistake of making the Bible say what it does not. If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. Otherwise, we do not need to hear it.