Board index Capital Punishment

What does the Bible say about capital punishment?

Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Fri Oct 19, 2018 11:31 am

> Since God is omnipresent (implying we're in God's presence) and Christians share a loving relationship with God, would you say Christians are in Heaven right now despite living on Earth?

God's presence, despite his omnipresence, seems to be something that is variable and manifests itself in different states and intensities. God is present everything, according to the theology of omnipresence, but after Solomon finished the temple the text says that God's presence descended on it. Obviously he was present in a different sense in the temple than his general omnipresence. And it seems he was present in an even different sense in the Holy of Holies, and then again in an even different sense on the bema seat of the ark of the covenant.

When Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3), their supreme loss was not access to the Garden of Eden, but access to God's presence. Obviously God's presence is variable and mitigated by many things.

Jesus was "God with us." Again, his presence in a different way and obviously a different reality and intensity.

Given those observations about God's presence, I would not say that Christians are in heaven right now despite living on Earth. Our relationship with God is real and vital, but 1 Corinthians 13.12 and 1 Jn. 3.2 let us know that what we are experiencing now is a partial picture of the full reality that comes later when we are actually in God's presence, so-to-speak "face to face."

> Also, if Heaven isn't a place but a relationship, then how would you explain why Matthew frequently alludes to the "kingdom" of Heaven?

The kingdom of heaven is generally interpreted to be "the reign of God." In a sense, the kingdom is where the king is. Theologically it is often spoken of as "already and not yet." We experience the kingdom of heaven on the earth since Jesus is in us, but there is a much fuller reality to come.

> What about Matthew 7:21, 12:50, 18:10, 18:14, or 23:9 which all state God the Father is in Heaven?

If "heaven" is "the presence of God," the Father can be nothing but.

> Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7.49; Ps. 103.19

The ancients perceived heaven as a location. They viewed the "firmament" (Earth's atmosphere) as a solid dome above the earth, with God's throne situated on the external apex.

> Rev. 21

In this case "heaven" is "the sky": Earth's atmosphere and outer space. Revelation is rife with phenomena of cosmic breakdown: stars falling from the sky, moon turning to blood. Here "the heaven" refers not to the dwelling place of God but to "the heavens"—what we see when we look up. But it's all imagery. The verse also says "there was no longer any sea," which is an image of chaos.

> Jn. 14.2

The disciples, who were known to think concretely and who seemed to be quite dense about Jesus's spiritual meanings, are probably thinking He is referring to the Temple itself. They are in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Being familiar with they prophecies, they were still expecting a grand Messianic arrival. When Jesus speaks of many rooms in the Father's house, they are likely thinking of the Jerusalem Temple, the Lord suddenly coming to His temple (Mal. 3.1-4), and quarters for them to live with His there and share in His reign.

In truth, since Jesus always speaks in layers of meaning, Jesus is cryptically referring to His death the next day, their joining Him in death via martyrdom, and their subsequent glorification with Him on the basis of His resurrection. The Temple is but a shadow of God’s presence.

> Jn. 3.13

What Jesus is talking about is the ability to understand such spiritual mysteries. Jesus is pre-existent and has been in the presence of God. He has direct knowledge of the mind and action of God. The term "heaven" here emphasizes Jesus's timeless existence and his first-hand knowledge of the things of God.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Tue Oct 23, 2018 3:02 pm

> If "heaven" is "the presence of God," the Father can be nothing but.

If Heaven is the presence of God, then wouldn't it have made more sense for the aforementioned verses to state God the Father is Heaven? It sounds peculiarly odd and redundant to assert that God the Father is in His own presence, especially since God cannot logically exist elsewhere beyond His own presence. If I asked you where you are right now, and you told me you are in your own presence, wouldn't such an answer sound ridiculous? Thus, it seems more sensible to interpret "Heaven" as a spiritual place instead. I believe stating that God the Father is Heaven would have left no room for doubt regarding whether Heaven is a place or God's presence.

> The ancients perceived heaven as a location. They viewed the "firmament" (Earth's atmosphere) as a solid dome above the earth, with God's throne situated on the external apex.

I don't think we can simply dismiss "Heaven as a location" to be a perception of the ancients. Isaiah 66:1 begins with "This is what the Lord says" and the verse preceding Acts 7:49 ends with "As the prophet says". Thus, the claim that Heaven is the throne of God actually seems to have come from God Himself.

> In truth, since Jesus always speaks in layers of meaning, Jesus is cryptically referring to His death the next day, their joining Him in death via martyrdom, and their subsequent glorification with Him on the basis of His resurrection. The Temple is but a shadow of God’s presence.

You mentioned previously that Jesus went to Hell and broke the locks after His death. However, if Jesus was cryptically referring to His impending death and subsequent descent to Hell in order to provide a path of salvation, then why would He state that He is going to His Father's house to prepare a place for His disciples? I'm sure we both agree that Hell cannot be the house of God.

> What Jesus is talking about is the ability to understand such spiritual mysteries. Jesus is pre-existent and has been in the presence of God. He has direct knowledge of the mind and action of God. The term "heaven" here emphasizes Jesus's timeless existence and his first-hand knowledge of the things of God.

So should I assume John 3:13 was referring to the fact that Jesus descended from and reascended to the presence of God the Father?
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 23, 2018 3:03 pm

> If Heaven is the presence of God, then wouldn't it have made more sense for the aforementioned verses to state God the Father is Heaven?

No, that's an ontological confusion. God isn't heaven. That leads us down many false pathways of identity and reality.

> Thus, it seems more sensible to interpret "Heaven" as a spiritual place instead.

Right now it may be. We're not really very clearly told. We know (from Scripture) that the final resurrection has not yet occurred, so possibly heaven right now is spiritual. People who regard it as physical would still have problems placing it in a particular part of the universe, so I would say even they regard it as somewhat spiritual. It's hard to know, to be honest with you.

> I don't think we can simply dismiss "Heaven as a location" to be a perception of the ancients. ... Heaven is the throne of God actually seems to have come from God Himself.

I have agreed that "Heaven is the throne of God."

> Jesus went to Hell and broke the locks after His death. However, if Jesus was cryptically referring to His impending death and subsequent descent to Hell in order to provide a path of salvation, then why would He state that He is going to His Father's house to prepare a place for His disciples? I'm sure we both agree that Hell cannot be the house of God.

For sure hell is not the house of God. "God's house" is ultimately Jesus's glorification with him on the basis of his resurrection (the path to which was his death, burial, descent to hell, and resurrection). "God's house" is where the glory of God is.

> should I assume John 3:13 was referring to the fact that Jesus descended from and reascended to the presence of God the Father?

Yes, but there's more to it than that. Jesus was also saying that he has the ability to understand spiritual mysteries known only to God. Jesus is pre-existent and has been in the presence of God. He has direct knowledge of the mind and action of God.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:58 pm

> No, that's an ontological confusion. God isn't heaven. That leads us down many false pathways of identity and reality.

How would this lead to false pathways of identity and reality? If God's presence is Heaven, then how is that any different from claiming God is Heaven? Speaking of which, isn't it equally confusing to assert God is in Heaven if Heaven actually means God's presence? You're essentially saying God is in His own presence, which is a redundant statement since it's logically impossible for any being to exist outside their own presence.

> Right now it may be. We're not really very clearly told. We know (from Scripture) that the final resurrection has not yet occurred, so possibly heaven right now is spiritual. People who regard it as physical would still have problems placing it in a particular part of the universe, so I would say even they regard it as somewhat spiritual. It's hard to know, to be honest with you.

Perhaps I should have left out the word "spiritual" when I said "spiritual place", since I wasn't even remotely addressing the idea that Heaven may be a physical place. I was trying to argue that it makes little sense to say God is in Heaven if Heaven means His own presence, leaving us to assume Heaven is a place instead.

> I have agreed that "Heaven is the throne of God."

So the throne of God is His own presence? Doesn't that sound rather absurd?

> For sure hell is not the house of God. "God's house" is ultimately Jesus's glorification with him on the basis of his resurrection (the path to which was his death, burial, descent to hell, and resurrection). "God's house" is where the glory of God is.

So John 14:2 was referring to Christ's resurrection and ascension? In that case, when Jesus said He was going to His Father's house to prepare a place for His disciples, was He planning to prepare a place after returning to God's house or did the act of returning itself (i.e. resurrection and ascension) automatically create a place in God's house for the disciples?
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 23, 2018 5:30 pm

> How would this lead to false pathways of identity and reality?

People (like, other religions) struggle with this point, but Christianity doesn't. A pantheist would claim that God and nature are ontologically one: that God is nature and nature is God. Not so, the Bible would argue: nature is matter and God is nonmaterial.

The Bible says "God is love," but we are not to misconstrue that to mean "Love is God." The Greek in 1 Jn. 4.8 doesn't allow the reversal. The two terms are not interchangeable.

The Bible says "God is light" (1 Jn. 1.5), but we can't say "light is God." 1 Jn. 1.6 says "God is truth," but we can't say "Truth is God." Jn. 4.24 says God is spirit, but we can't say "spirit is God.

So you stumbled across a trip wire with me when you said, "So, God is heaven?" We have to be more than careful about such statements that they don't lead us into the Land of Misunderstanding. To say "God is heaven" may lead people to misunderstand what and who God is. That was my concern. God isn't heaven; God is God.

> isn't it equally confusing to assert God is in Heaven if Heaven actually means God's presence?

Great question. I mean, Jesus said it himself in the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father, who art in heaven..." The point of Jesus saying that is that God transcends time and space, not describing the place where God lives. And yes, it has caused a lot of misunderstanding through the centuries.

> So the throne of God is His own presence? Doesn't that sound rather absurd?

I think I mentioned earlier in this conversation that "[The ancients] viewed the "firmament" (Earth's atmosphere) as a solid dome above the earth, with God's throne situated on the external apex." When we get to the book of Revelation, however, the throne of God is abstract (Rev. 4.2-8). John was looking at the presence of God.

> John 14.2

He was referring to the whole package that was coming, yes. If you read all of John 14-17, there are many places Jesus refers to "going to the Father" where he is referring to his death (Jn. 13.36; 14.3, 12, 28; 16.5 et al.). But his "going to the Father" is couched in language of "I will come back" (Jn. 14.3, 8, 28; 16.16-22).

> when Jesus said He was going to His Father's house to prepare a place for His disciples, was He planning to prepare a place after returning to God's house or did the act of returning itself (i.e. resurrection and ascension) automatically create a place in God's house for the disciples?

There are many facets to this saying.

* Jesus is preparing his disciples for the coming era when he will no longer be physically present with them. The Holy Spirit will make Jesus's presence known in a new and different way
* Jesus is assuring the disciples (and all who follow Him) that they will rest in his presence when they die. God's people will forever live with God.
* Jesus is assuring all of His followers that they will resurrect after death as He is about to.
* He is assuring them there is no lack of space. All who want to come are invited, and there will be a way for them to join God and live with Him.

We can understand from Jesus's saying that the Father's presence already has many "rooms" available. There are two possible cultural reference points:

* Their immediate thought would go to the Temple itself, where many rooms (apartments) existed. In those rooms some of the priests would live while they performed their duties, and possibly even pilgrims could find lodging there while they worshipped. They were probably thinking of living quarters where they would continually know God's presence and share in his reign. And, of course, the Temple was where God would meet with His people.
* Their houses were often sprawling projects of added-on insulae. A house grew organically as children got married as the family grew larger. The first married son, for instance, typically brought his bride to a newly constructed room in the compound. Jesus used the image of an insula to help his disciples understand what life with the heavenly Father would be like: In my Father’s house are many rooms. … If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
* The king's palace was the living place not only for the king and the heir to his throne, but also for all the sons of the king, however numerous they might be.

John 14.2-3 sounds as if Jesus is saying his death would be what prepares the rooms, and his resurrection and ascension would be what enables him to welcome others into God's presence. His "going" and return are the salvation story.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:13 pm

> The Bible says "God is love," but we are not to misconstrue that to mean "Love is God." The Greek in 1 Jn. 4.8 doesn't allow the reversal. The two terms are not interchangeable.

> The Bible says "God is light" (1 Jn. 1.5), but we can't say "light is God." 1 Jn. 1.6 says "God is truth," but we can't say "Truth is God."
> Jn. 4.24 says God is spirit, but we can't say "spirit is God.
> So you stumbled across a trip wire with me when you said, "So, God is heaven?" We have to be more than careful about such statements that they don't lead us into the Land of Misunderstanding. To say "God is heaven" may lead people to misunderstand what and who God is. That was my concern. God isn't heaven; God is God.

So you're concerned that saying "God is Heaven" would lead people to misconstrue it as "Heaven is God"? In that case, why would the Bible say things like "God is love" or "God is light"? Couldn't such verses be misconstrued as "Love is God" and "Light is God", just like "God is Heaven" to "Heaven is God"? And yet, the Bible still includes these verses with the expectation that we realize the two terms in each verse aren't interchangeable. Thus, couldn't the Bible also say "God is Heaven" while expecting its audience to understand "God" and "Heaven" aren't interchangeable terms?

> The point of Jesus saying that is that God transcends time and space, not describing the place where God lives.

If Jesus was trying to say God transcends time and space, isn't that kind of describing the place where God lives?

> And yes, it has caused a lot of misunderstanding through the centuries.

You said earlier that the claim "God is Heaven" may lead people to misunderstand "what and who God is". Yet you admit that Christ's prayer "Our Father, who art in Heaven..." has also caused misunderstanding through the centuries. Hence, I fail to see why the latter claim is any better than the former.

> I think I mentioned earlier in this conversation that "[The ancients] viewed the "firmament" (Earth's atmosphere) as a solid dome above the earth, with God's throne situated on the external apex."

The ancients may have interpreted Isaiah 66:1 and Acts 7:49 to mean that God's throne is located on the eternal apex of Earth's atmosphere. However, we know there is no God, kingdom, or throne literally resting above the Earth's atmosphere. And since Isaiah 66:1 begins with "This is what the Lord says" and the verse preceding Acts 7:49 ends with "As the prophet says", we also know both Isaiah 66:1 and Acts 7:49 are the words of God Himself. Hence, what exactly did God mean by those verses, if not the ancients' interpretation?

> When we get to the book of Revelation, however, the throne of God is abstract (Rev. 4.2-8). John was looking at the presence of God.

Firstly, how do you know Revelation 4:2-8 wasn't describing a literal imagery of God's throne? Secondly, are you actually insinuating the throne of God is His own presence?

Side note: I haven't decided whether I'm going to address your response to my last question yet.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:14 pm

> In that case, why would the Bible say things like "God is love" or "God is light"

Because God is those things, but those things aren't God. I can rightfully say, "I am human," but I cannot rightfully say "Humanity is me."

> If Jesus was trying to say God transcends time and space, isn't that kind of describing the place where God lives?

Without space we cannot identify place.

> Hence, what exactly did God mean by those verses, if not the ancients' interpretation?

Great question. That they viewed God anthropomorphically is not a weakness of perception but rather a way to make God understandable to us mortals. Anthropomorphizations of God are still useful to us as we speak of God's eyes seeing us or his hand supporting us. It's not spiritually accurate but it has practical benefit. It's hard to know exactly what they were thinking in the olden days. We know their perception was of God on a throne on top of the firmament, but we also know that they understood that God didn't have corporeality, so it's tough to pin down.

As far as Isa. 66.1, in one sense we can regard this as a physical statement, but we also know about the figurative sense speaking of God's reign as king and the earth as in submission to him.

> Rev. 4.2-8

First, insisting on anything literal in Revelation is tricky business. Revelation is very difficult to interpret. It's the description of the "one sitting on [the throne]" in Rev. 4.2ff. that leads me to believe it's not meant to be literal imagery. "The one who sat there and the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne." John doesn't seem to be trying to describe a physical appearance of God, but rather his glory and sovereignty in figurative language. Gemstones are often the possession of royalty and represent the power and sovereignty of the king (think of the Crown Jewels of any country’s monarch). The more gems, and the more different kinds, the greater the status of the king. Here we see a king with an unparalleled array of stones, marking the supreme sovereignty of this throne. The gems are symbolic of supernatural splendor. The rainbow (a covenant marker) resembles an emerald (yet a rainbow by definition is all the colors). So it may not be a literal rainbow, but an arc of light symbolizing judgment and salvation, as it did in the days of Noah. "Encircling the throne" speaks of completeness.

> Secondly, are you actually insinuating the throne of God is His own presence?

Yes.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Wed Oct 24, 2018 3:07 pm

> Because God is those things, but those things aren't God. I can rightfully say, "I am human," but I cannot rightfully say "Humanity is me."

Yet God isn't Heaven even though God's presence is Heaven?

> Without space we cannot identify place.

But to say God transcends time and space still tells us the place where He lives is beyond this dimension. Moreover, if Jesus wasn't simply trying to say God was in His own presence (which would be a redundant statement) but to claim God exists beyond time and space whenever He (Jesus) mentioned His Father in "Heaven", doesn't this mean Jesus didn't define Heaven as God's presence, but as a dimension beyond our universe?

> John doesn't seem to be trying to describe a physical appearance of God, but rather his glory and sovereignty in figurative language.

In that case, what imagery did John actually see when he bore witness to God's glory and sovereignty?
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Oct 24, 2018 3:23 pm

> Yet God isn't Heaven even though God's presence is Heaven?

Yeah. If I can dare an analogy (that I haven't thought enough about before I fling it out there): "Home is where the heart is." That's not to claim the heart is my home, but only that where my affections lie is where I feel the comfort and belonging I seek. God's presence is what we seek, not a place of awesome gold and gems. God's presence is the treasure and the goal.

> But to say God transcends time and space still tells us the place where He lives is beyond this dimension.

It's possibly a misstatement to claim God "lives" anywhere. We need to be careful with this language. It makes God seem localized, and it may not be the most accurate way to perceive him.

> doesn't this mean Jesus didn't define Heaven as God's presence, but as a dimension beyond our universe?

We're on tricky interpretive ground here trying to make a distinction between those two. We have Jesus's six words (Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς), and it's too tricky to make a certain interpretive decision of a dichotomy between Jesus defining heaven as God's presence in opposition to a dimension beyond our universe. Couldn't it be both?

> In that case, what imagery did John actually see when he bore witness to God's glory and sovereignty?

We'd all like to know the answer to that question. We don't know whether John was seeing something he didn't have words to describe, or seeing something symbolic that he tried to put into literal words (both are plausible). Whatever it was he saw, he was beside himself with awe and seemingly lacking the terminology to communicate it (rainbows like emeralds? Gold like transparent glass? A figure on the throne that is like jasper and carnelian?).
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Thu Oct 25, 2018 9:40 am

> "Home is where the heart is." That's not to claim the heart is my home, but only that where my affections lie is where I feel the comfort and belonging I seek.

I'm assuming home and heart represent Heaven and God respectively in your analogy. However, anyone with common sense will realize the saying "Home is where the heart is" must be an idiom, whereas claiming God is in Heaven is bound to make people believe Heaven is a literal place where God resides rather than God's presence. Just as people realize the claims "God is love" and "God is truth" do not mean God is literally made out of love or truth (since love and truth are concepts, not substances) but that God unconditionally loves His creations and cannot lie, I believe people would have realized God's presence is Heaven if Jesus had said God is Heaven.

> God's presence is what we seek, not a place of awesome gold and gems.

Which only reaffirms my point that Jesus should have stated God is Heaven, not in Heaven, if He wanted people to realize Heaven is God's presence, not a place.

> We're on tricky interpretive ground here trying to make a distinction between those two. We have Jesus's six words (Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς), and it's too tricky to make a certain interpretive decision of a dichotomy between Jesus defining heaven as God's presence in opposition to a dimension beyond our universe. Couldn't it be both?

What do you mean when you suggest Heaven could be both definitions? Are you saying Heaven could simultaneously be both God's presence and a dimension beyond our universe? Because such a compound of definitions doesn't make logical sense if, for example, God chooses to concentrate His presence away from the "other dimension" and onto Earth, thus separating God's presence and the dimension beyond our universe. Or are you saying Heaven could mean either God's presence or the dimension beyond our universe, depending on the context? In that case, "Heaven" is far less redundant in the context of Jesus' saying "Our Father in Heaven" if He meant a dimension beyond our universe than God's presence. Moreover, since you're trying to encompass both definitions, are you finally acknowledging the possibility of Heaven being a "place" beyond our universe?

> We'd all like to know the answer to that question. We don't know whether John was seeing something he didn't have words to describe, or seeing something symbolic that he tried to put into literal words (both are plausible). Whatever it was he saw, he was beside himself with awe and seemingly lacking the terminology to communicate it (rainbows like emeralds? Gold like transparent glass? A figure on the throne that is like jasper and carnelian?).

Just a correction, but I didn't see any "Gold like transparent glass" upon examining Revelation 4. John describes the sea of glass to be clear as crystal, not gold. Furthermore, even if John was at a loss for words to describe "the one sitting on the throne" or the rainbow, couldn't the throne itself (along with all 24 other thrones) have been literal?
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