John Bradshaw - Foreknowledge, Free Will and the 144,000
John Bradshaw: Thank you for joining us for "Line Upon Line," brought to you by It Is Written. This is where we answer your Bible questions and we have some great questions today. If you've been watching "Line Upon Line" and you thought, "Those questions aren't very good," well, there's something that you can do about it. Adjust your attitude, or B, email us, send us what you consider to be a really good question. The email address is [email protected] [email protected], and we'll do our level best to give you a Bible answer for your Bible questions. Joining me, Eric Flickinger from It Is Written. Thanks for being here.
Eric Flickinger: It's good to be here, John. We've got some great questions today, some deep questions.
John Bradshaw: All right.
Eric Flickinger: Which is not to suggest that the other questions that we have are very shallow.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Eric Flickinger: But today we are excited to have some great questions. And the first one comes from Sissel. Thank you, Sissel, for sending us this question. Speaking of deep questions, "Why did God make us? He knew what was going to happen. Yes, we have a free will, but to be born is not our choice.
John Bradshaw: Sissel, let's flip this. Why did God make us knowing all of the awful things that were gonna happen to us? No. Why did God make us knowing all of the awful things that were gonna happen to Him? Because Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. As soon as there was sin, there was a savior. It was planned that should sin happen, should the unthinkable happen, then Jesus would come to this earth and live as a man, and he would, by the grace of God, live a perfect life so that he might have His perfect righteousness to give to us, but he would die for us. It wasn't just some garden-variety death. Your great grandma was fortunate that she went to bed late one night and fell asleep. Didn't wake up. Died in her sleep. Oh, not Jesus. He died because his heart ruptured within himself. They pressed a crown of thorns on his head. They whipped him and beat him. And, imagine, they snatched out his beard as he walked by. Jesus was brutally treated. And the truth of the matter is that the physical treatment was not nearly the worst part about his death.
— That's right.
— He bore our sins, and that was so crushing. He felt like he was indeed separated from his Father. So, we are reframing the question, and we're asking, "Why did God do this knowing what He would go through"? There can only be one answer.
— That answer is because of love. And He wanted to spend eternity with us. The only way that that could happen is for us to be here. Imagine it, to some extent, it must have been lonely for God in forever in the past, when it was only Him, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He began to create things, angels, and so forth. And then there came a time when He said, "You know, I want to create someone very much like me. I wanna create man". And He created us in His image. He created us like Him, so that He could love us and we could love Him in return. And part of that creation, the way He created us, to make love possible, or for love to be possible, was to give us a free will, a choice. Because without choice, without free will, there can't be love. We would simply be programmed beings, automatons, if you will, computer programs to simply do what God programmed us to do. But he gave us free will so that we could love Him and He could love us.
— It's a fair question. Knowing all the trouble that was gonna come up, knowing that there'd be AIDS babies, and kids born with fetal alcohol syndrome and spinal bifida, and all of that, car crashes and muggings and murders and suicide and... Why in the world did God go through with it? Well, I don't know how many brothers and sisters you have, Sissel. Why did your parents have so many children? Might have only been 1, 2, 7. I don't know why. They knew full well that there was a very, very good chance that one of them could have been born disabled. They knew full well that one of them might go off the rails. One of them could end up in prison for the rest of her life or his life. Someone could do something dastardly, have a rotten experience, suffer from an illness. But there's something about love. You know, you're gonna love anyway, no matter what your children do with their lives, you're gonna love them. Whatever they experience, you're gonna love them. It's just like that with God. God knew that "whosoever believed in Jesus would not perish, but have everlasting life". There's something about love that we don't understand. And something about the love of God that we wrestle with. God saw in every human being born the possibility that that person could be saved. Let's look beyond the temporary difficulties of this earth. Paul wrote about our "light affliction, which is but for a moment". James said that life is but a vapor, appears for a moment and then vanishes away. God was thinking what happens on this earth is not really the main point. He knew that whatever happened on this earth, if we allowed, it would push us towards God and not away from God. We had the opportunity to be saved. And that's what God wanted. Eric, is this all right to the end of a question, "to be born is not our choice". Oh man, what a fantastic thing that God said, "You don't have a choice so I'm gonna bring you into the world and give you the opportunity to have everlasting life".
— That's right, the other alternative, the alternative to not having a choice is absolute nothingness for forever. You would not have existed. You would never have the opportunity to have eternal life. So He brought you into existence so you could live forever. Let's take a look at Genesis. How did God bring us, that is humanity, into existence? Genesis chapter two verse seven, says "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being". Well, of course, God didn't... How did you phrase it? "To be born is not our choice". You're right, it wasn't our choice because we weren't around. Before we came into being, there wasn't some sort of a soul, a spirit fleeting and floating around the universe, waiting for God to make a body to put us in, that He could consult with us and say, "Do you want to be born"?
— We just plain didn't exist until we existed. And so God in His mercy and His love and His grace gave us an opportunity that we never had, never would have had if we had never existed.
— It reminds me of a true story. A man in Wyoming died, evidently died from hypothermia. He was homeless and some kids found him. They were tobogganing. I guess they were up on the high part of maybe the river, and they were down the hill. They found a man under the bridge. They thought he was sleeping, and then they realized he wasn't asleep, he was dead. Homeless man. He didn't have a roof over his head and he didn't have money in his pocket. Here's what he didn't know. A great aunt who lived in New York City had died a few years before, or some time before. She was very wealthy. She had very few relatives. She had the attorney search for her family members, and they discovered this guy, homeless man in Wyoming. He did not know. He died not knowing that he was rich. Just didn't know. He could have bought the biggest supermarket in that town and the other one, and had tons of money left over. He could have bought the 10 most expensive homes in that town. He could have bought every clothing store in that town, and still had money left over if he'd made any one of those purchases. He didn't know that he was fabulously wealthy. And he died hungry, alone, and freezing cold. It reminds, Sissel, of a lot of people in this world. They just don't know what they've got. Jesus died so that we might live forever. He's gifted to us. He's bequeathed to us everlasting life. If we claim that everlasting life, it becomes ours. He says, "Salvation is yours, do you want it"? And why in the world would people not? I know this can be challenging, these questions of existence and foreknowledge and predestination and the will of God and the will of human beings. If you look at this thing from God's point of view, you'll say, "Wow, God is really good. God is love, and He's given us far more than we deserve". Sethi writes, "Is there one God"?
— That's a short question, but boy, does it ever get to the heart of what Christianity is all about? Is there one God? The short answer? Yes. Who is He?
— Okay. Not so short now.
— Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
— Yeah, but how do you know that? And how do you know that the three are one God? Now, we know because in the Bible Jesus referred to his Father again and again and again. "My father worketh hitherto, and I work". "I'm going to my Father. In my Father's house..". And there's no question that the Father is God. So, is the Father God? Yes. Is only the Father God? No. Let's talk about the son.
— The Son is also God. He said, "I and my Father are one". So, he's making himself equal with the Father. "Before Abraham was," he said, "I am".
— Referring to the fact that He is the self existent God.
— That's right. Absolutely. So he, Jesus, is just as verily God as the Father is. Absolutely.
— Now, what about this third person, the Spirit, the Holy Spirit? I'm gonna say you are going to say that he, Eddie, as He is God, how do we validate that?
— Well, of course you've got the Father, you've got the Son, the third person of the Godhead. How do we know that? There's a story in the book of Acts that's very, very interesting. It's the story of Ananias and Saphira. They had sold a piece of land. They had agreed to give the money to the church. Then they decided to keep back some of the money, and they got caught.
John Bradshaw: Yeah.
— They got caught. And when they got caught, Peter said to them, "Listen, when the money was yours, when the land was yours, you could have done anything with it that you wanted to. But you were a little dishonest. In fact, you were a lot dishonest in what you did with it. You decided to keep some of the blessings from the church, but keep the money to yourself, some of the money to yourself as well". And he said, "You lied to the Holy Spirit. And when you lied to the Holy Spirit, you lied to God". And that was a big mistake. In fact, they dropped dead right there.
— Yeah. It's clear from the Bible that the Spirit is God as well. And the Spirit is a person. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as a person numerous times. When He, the Spirit of truth is coming, He will guide people into all truth". So Eric, in certain circles, there are little movements that rise up and say, "Oh, we don't believe this Godhead concept". Some call it the Trinity. We don't believe the Trinity". One reason for that is because the Trinity is a very popular belief within the Roman Catholic Church. And some people say, "Well, if I believe the Trinity, then I'm signing off on all Roman Catholic teaching. And I don't agree with all Roman Catholic teaching. And so I don't wanna be guilty by association". It doesn't matter who teaches it, it just matters if it's true. And that's what you want to keep in mind. You'll find that you have beliefs in common with all kinds of interesting individuals, and that doesn't make you on the same page as those folks in every aspect. So that's one reason.
— Why else are people getting off on this thing?
— This idea that the Holy Spirit is not a person of the Godhead, but it's rather a force, or something that emanates from the sun, or something like that. When we can demote the Holy Spirit, we don't always have to do everything that the Holy Spirit tells us to do.
— And if I wanna do the things I want to do, and here is someone or something trying to convict me that I need to change, that's not always the most comfortable feeling.
— Another thing is this. The idea that there are three beings and they comprise one God, that's, I mean, that's honestly, it's a little complicated. It's simple, three is one, but it's not the way that we think in the Western world. Sometimes people will look at this and go, "It's just far too complicated". And they feel like they cannot understand it, and so they throw the baby out with the bath water. We would encourage you to do otherwise, hang on to the plainly reveal truths in the Word of God. Even if they challenge you, let God reveal them to you in the fullness of time. This is "Line Upon Line," from It Is Written, and we will be back with more in just a moment.
— Welcome back to "Line Upon Line," brought to you by It Is Written. Thank you once again for sending your questions to us. And if you would like to and you haven't yet done it, please do send them to us, [email protected] We look forward to receiving your questions.
— Colin asks this. "Many people think we should baptize people in only the name of Jesus. Jesus clearly said we should baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Which is correct"? And if I were to have a run of that question, I would say, "Colin is saying, 'who's correct, Jesus or people?'"
— Well, if I have to choose between Jesus and people, I'm probably gonna choose Jesus. But it's a mildly leading question.
John Bradshaw: Sure it is.
— So let's see if we can unpack it a little bit. You're right, Colin, there are people who put in, what we might say, an undue emphasis on the words that are spoken, the utterances that are spoken, at a person's baptism. Does it matter that the correct words are spoken, the exact words? Well, we're gonna look at some examples in the Bible, but let me preface what we're about to share by asking you to consider this. If it's all about the syllables, the utterances, the words that are said during a baptism, there's a high likelihood that we should not be baptizing anybody in the English language. Because back in Jesus' day, I don't know how many of them spoke English to baptize anyone in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. My guess is about zero.
— Here's what we know. Some people like to argue. And they like to argue about nothing. And what you've gotta do as a believer in Jesus, or as somebody who is finding his or her way and faith in God, is to figure out what's worth arguing about and what's not. Pretty easy. Nothing's worth arguing about. So, the question then would be, what's worth making a big deal over and what's not? Well, let's allow the Bible to answer that question for us. I'm gonna read to you Acts two in verse 38. "Then Peter said unto them, 'repent and he baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost". And so the question is, what was he getting at? "Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ". Well, let's back up ever so slightly. The Bible talks about David in verse 34. "David is not ascended into the heavens," and so forth. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know as assuredly that God has made that same Jesus, who you have crucified, both Lord and Christ". Are you feeling me? God has made Jesus Lord and Christ. This was the controversy. This was the dispute, who is Messiah? Who is Lord and Christ? Peter is saying it's Jesus. "Now, when they heard this, they were pricked, convicted, in their hearts, and they said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what do we do?'" "You've just told us that Jesus is the Messiah, what do we do"? And they answered by saying, "Be baptized in the name of Jesus".
— They weren't saying, "Well, wait, let me write this down for you. Go get baptized and tell the vicar when he baptizes you to say these words". He was saying, "When you're baptized, be baptized accepting Jesus as the Messiah". In another question not that long ago, in another program, we were talking about how to study the Bible. And we mentioned when you study, study in context. Whether you go chapter by chapter, topic by topic, make sure you get the context right. The context here demonstrates you that we're not arguing, or mandating a certain phraseology be used in the baptistry.
— The concept is, when a person is being baptized in the name of Jesus, that person is being baptized accepting Jesus Christ as her or his Savior. You can find in the Bible, in the book of Acts, same book, where they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
— That's right.
— Same book. Book of Acts. They were baptized "in the name of the Lord". Again, "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. So you've gone to flop to flip to flop.
— Yep, different things were said at different times. And nowhere in the book of Acts or anywhere else that I've found in the New Testament, after somebody's baptized does somebody else step up and say, "Hey, hey, wait, wait a minute. No, time out. Uh-uh. No that doesn't count". Go back and do that one again. If the person is sincere, if they have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior, if they have a relationship and want a deepening relationship with the Father, if they are being led by the Spirit, whether they're baptized in the name of the Lord, in the name of the Lord Jesus, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, whether they're baptized in English or in Spanish or in Russian or in whatever language. If that sincerity is there, if the surrender is there, if the desire is there, even if the pastor messes it up a little bit. I'll give you an example. I heard a story of a man who is a Spanish-speaking gentleman, wanted to be baptized, had accepted Jesus as his Savior, and wanted to give his life in a public way, to let everybody know that he loved Jesus and wanted to follow Him, but he couldn't find a Spanish-speaking pastor. He could only find an English-speaking pastor. And so he asked him, in his broken English, "Could you baptize me in Spanish"? And the English-speaking pastor said, "Well, I can try. I'll do my very best". And so he went back and he studied and he practiced and he wrote it down and he memorized. Now, my Spanish is not all that great. It should probably be better than it is. But unless I'm mistaken, when a person is baptized in Spanish, they are baptized 'en el nombre del Padre y el Hijo y el Espíritu Santo,' or something along those lines. And so the pastor, on the day of the baptism, young, Spanish-speaking gentleman coming into the baptistry. He's about to baptize him. He raises his hand in the air and he says, "I now baptize you en el nombre de la papa".
— The name of the daddy.
— The name of the Pope.
— Oh, the name of the Pope?
— In the name of the Pope.
— Oh, fantastic.
— Or the potato, depending on how you wanna translate it. Either way, I don't see God up there in heaven going, "Oh, no, no, no, no. No, that doesn't work". What I think I see is the angels of heaven going, "Did you see that one? That was a good one. Right"? It counts. The young man was sincere. The pastor was sincere. Their hearts were in the right place. A little something was lost in translation.
— But it counts.
— Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, or make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, or the Holy Spirit". I'd hang with what Jesus said. And I think, Eric, you summed that up very nicely. I wouldn't encourage you to get baptized in the name of the potato, or in the name of the Pope, but if that's how it comes out... One more second on this. Somebody might be tempted to say, "Well, they said it's not important". I think it's important.
— Sure, sure.
— It's all important. But just don't make it a life and death issue, or a test case, or that's how it's gotta be forever. And...
Eric Flickinger: Yeah.
— Exhale, relax a little bit about this subject. Eric, Thesias is writing. "Help me understand the 144,000 of Revelation chapter seven".
— All right. Well, we're gonna try to do this in a short period of time, which is about impossible, but we'll do our very best.
John Bradshaw: We'll do our best.
— So the 144,000 are mentioned by name twice in the book of Revelation, once in Revelation chapter seven and again, in Revelation chapter 14. They're referred to at a few other times as well, but who are the 144,000? Let's answer a common question first. Is it a literal number? Is it literally 144,000 that are going to be saved, or is this more of a symbolic number?
— I think we have to come down on the idea, on the side of the idea that it's a symbolic number. Because if you look in Revelation when the 144,000 are described, they are described as having their Father's name written in their foreheads. They're described as being virgins. They're described as being 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. There's so much there that's symbolic. You'd think that the number is symbolic as well. So we will go on the side of symbolic, and we're pretty confident about that.
— Yeah. So likely a symbolic number. Now, what are their characteristics? John, you made mentioned that they were of the tribes of Israel. You made mentioned that they are virgins. These are all symbols. So, who are the 144,000? In a nutshell, this is the group of people who live through the very end of time, through the seven last plagues, through the trials and the tribulations, to see Jesus come in the clouds of heaven. Let's take a look at Revelation chapter seven. We're gonna read verses one through four. Verse one says, "After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, or on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth in the sea, saying, 'Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.' And I heard the number of those who were sealed. 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed. So these individuals, they receive the seal of God. That is, they do not receive the mark of the beast. That's at the very end of time. And Jesus comes back very shortly after that.
— So the 144,000 lived through earth's last great crisis. They stand for Christ. They've surrendered to Him. They are alive and saved when Jesus comes back. The 144,000 are the living saved when Jesus returns. I've heard that the 144,000 will be evangelists to evangelize the world. And maybe you can get there from here, but it's pretty unnecessary. They're the saved when Jesus returns. It's that simple really, isn't it?
— Outstanding. Alright. You said we'd take a long question and make it short. I think you're right. I think we did that.
Eric Flickinger: Right.
— Jay. "How can a promise given to Joshua be claimed by me today"? How can a promise given to Joshua, way back then, be claimed by us today?
— Well, we're in a bit of a fix, a bit of a pickle. If only the things that are recorded in the Bible applied to the people that they were written to back in those days, we would have a very dusty book here today. That wouldn't be of much practical value.
— Fortunately, the things that were written back then, were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come. We are living in the last days of earth's history. This book, this volume, this Bible, is given to us to prepare us for the times that we live in today, and the times that are coming in the near future. Those promises can help us.
— Peter wrote in 2 Peter one, in verse four, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be the partakers of the divine, or you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust". Peter is writing the promises in the Bible are for you today, which is outstanding. "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again to receive you to myself". Jesus was speaking to a circle of people gathered around him, but he was speaking to you as well. Quickly now, promises in the Bible that we can claim today.
— I love the one that you just mentioned, John 14 verses one through three. "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also". One of my favorites.
— Beautiful. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Philippians 4:13. It's talking about Christ more than about you, but there's the promise.
Eric Flickinger: Yeah.
— Verse 19, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus".
— Powerful. "With God all things are possible". You may be facing some trials, some struggles, some challenges in your life, and you're going, "I don't know how I can do. I've struggled with this. I've failed with this over and over". "With God all things are possible". Trust him, grab ahold of him. He can see you through.
— Proverbs chapter three. Proverbs chapter three. It says. Help me. Proverbs chapter three. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart". I was thinking about it five seconds ago. Lean not onto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths". Powerful promise.
— Powerful promise.
— Thanks so much for joining us with Eric Flickinger. I'm John Bradshaw. This has been "Line Upon Line". Join us next time. Brought to you by It Is Written.