Board index Capital Punishment

What does the Bible say about capital punishment?

Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:04 am

> claiming God is in Heaven is bound to make people believe Heaven is a literal place where God resides rather than God's presence.

Yeah, I can see your point. I'm just trying to take all of what we're taught about heaven and amalgamate it into and understandable concept. I'm confident that we're taught that "heaven" right now is not a physical place, but is being in the presence of God. When Jesus returns at the end of time and history, "heaven" will become an actual place (the earth) where the presence of God is its most prevalent characteristic. The goal of our lives as Christians is not to be in a place of eternal bliss but rather to be with God and in His presence (which, of course, will bring bliss and could be described as paradise). The concept of heaven is so bound up with other concepts that's it difficult to speak distinctly of them all, and certainly problematic to describe clean and clear separations between them all.

> What do you mean when you suggest Heaven could be both definitions?

I'm saying that God's presence is not a physical place, and therefore not perceivable (i.e., a dimension beyond matter and space). If "heaven" right now is a spiritual reality but not a material one, it can be anywhere. "A dimension beyond" doesn't specify "outside of our known universe," but instead "not composed of matter and energy (as we know them)."

> Just a correction, but I didn't see any "Gold like transparent glass" upon examining Revelation 4.

Yeah, sorry, my mistake. The "gold" and "glass" connection comes in Rev. 21.18 & 21.

> couldn't the throne itself (along with all 24 other thrones) have been literal?

Revelation is tough to interpret. I can assume John was in a visionary state (Rev. 4.2), so it's pretty difficult to claim with certainty that something is "literal." Whether he was communicating a message (symbolic) or the reality he saw (literal) is tough to say. It's also possible that he "saw" something literal and real that was supposed to symbolize its reality. It's not always possible to make a sharp distinction between ecstasy, inspiration by Spirit-enlightenment, and prophetic revelation.

The first thing he "sees" is a throne, connoting such things as (1) it's the central focal point of the vision, (2) it symbolized power, majesty, rule, and authority. Robertson and Kittel both contend that the throne is not literal, but symbolic, since God is nonmaterial spirit. We notice that the occupant of the throne is formless: noncorporeal. So we have to interpret it. How do you perceive it?

As far as the 24 thrones surrounding it, this could be an arrangement symbolizing the architecture of power, so to speak. The central throne is surrounded by a symbolic number of other thrones, magnifying the power of the central throne. Seated on them are 24 beings of recognized authority, all oriented to the central throne. Their attire speaks of holiness and glory (other power images). The crowns of gold also symbolize power and glory. The flashes of lightning speak of revelation (Ex. 19.16; Ps. 18.22ff.) and power (1 Sam. 2.10; Ps. 18.9; Job 37.4). The seven lamps portray illumination and divine presence. The whole scene is one of power, status, authority, purity, and righteousness. After all, this is the God who will render judgment on the earth. We are being shown that he rightfully fills that role. Is it literal? I'm not even sure if that's the right question, y'know?
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:04 pm

> Yeah, I can see your point. I'm just trying to take all of what we're taught about heaven and amalgamate it into and understandable concept.

Are you conceding to my point that Jesus should have said God is Heaven to reduce potential misunderstanding over the nature of Heaven, assuming Heaven is actually God's presence?

> When Jesus returns at the end of time and history, "heaven" will become an actual place (the earth) where the presence of God is its most prevalent characteristic.

Reflecting back to an earlier question I had, couldn't God bring people whose hearts are oriented towards righteousness (ranging from pious saints who've performed numerous great works to irreligious criminals who've expressed sincere remorse for their crimes) to this new "Heaven on Earth"? Since their hearts are in the right place, won't they naturally be comforted by God's presence, even if they're not Christian?

> I'm saying that God's presence is not a physical place, and therefore not perceivable (i.e., a dimension beyond matter and space).

So you're assuming "Heaven" is simultaneously both God's presence and a dimension beyond matter and space? Because such a definition doesn't make logical sense to me, especially if God has the power to withdraw His presence from this "other dimension" (thus distinguishing God's presence and this otherworldly dimension apart).

> "A dimension beyond" doesn't specify "outside of our known universe," but instead "not composed of matter and energy (as we know them)."

Are you suggesting a dimension not composed of matter and energy may somehow be part of our known universe?

> The first thing he "sees" is a throne, connoting such things as (1) it's the central focal point of the vision, (2) it symbolized power, majesty, rule, and authority. Robertson and Kittel both contend that the throne is not literal, but symbolic, since God is nonmaterial spirit. We notice that the occupant of the throne is formless: noncorporeal. So we have to interpret it. How do you perceive it?

> As far as the 24 thrones surrounding it, this could be an arrangement symbolizing the architecture of power, so to speak. The central throne is surrounded by a symbolic number of other thrones, magnifying the power of the central throne. Seated on them are 24 beings of recognized authority, all oriented to the central throne. Their attire speaks of holiness and glory (other power images). The crowns of gold also symbolize power and glory. The flashes of lightning speak of revelation (Ex. 19.16; Ps. 18.22ff.) and power (1 Sam. 2.10; Ps. 18.9; Job 37.4). The seven lamps portray illumination and divine presence. The whole scene is one of power, status, authority, purity, and righteousness. After all, this is the God who will render judgment on the earth. We are being shown that he rightfully fills that role. Is it literal? I'm not even sure if that's the right question, y'know?

Do you believe it's possible that God doesn't rest on an actual throne, but showed John the vision of Himself sitting on a throne surrounded by 24 other thrones in order to symbolically communicate His glory and sovereignty?
Regnis Numis
 

Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:05 pm

> Are you conceding to my point that Jesus should have said God is Heaven to reduce potential misunderstanding over the nature of Heaven, assuming Heaven is actually God's presence?

Hmm. No I'm not. I think to say "God is heaven" would lead to too much misunderstanding. Obviously the thought that God was sitting on a throne situated at the apex of a firm atmosphere does as well, but that was their cosmology. We can't fault them for operating within their cultural worldview. When all you know is Earth (in contrast to us who have the Hubble telescope), they perceived God in a position of sovereignty and outside of the natural sphere.

> couldn't God bring people whose hearts are oriented towards righteousness (ranging from pious saints who've performed numerous great works to irreligious criminals who've expressed sincere remorse for their crimes) to this new "Heaven on Earth"? Since their hearts are in the right place, won't they naturally be comforted by God's presence, even if they're not Christian?

There are possibilities in this direction. Some theologians take various perspectives on eternity and hell: semi-restorationism, reconciliationism, and annihilationism. C.S. Lewis, a writer and thinker greatly respected by Christians, wrote: "We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him." All we can be certain of is that God's righteous nature and His omniscience will enable him to be flawlessly fair. No one, in their eternal destiny, will be able to honestly claim, "I was not treated fairly."

> Are you suggesting a dimension not composed of matter and energy may somehow be part of our known universe?

Yes I am. I believe in metaphysical realities that truly exist but share no part in matter or energy. Isn't time like this? Time has no ontological association with matter or energy, and yet no one (to my knowledge) would claim it doesn't exist. The spirit realm, I believe, is as real as the physical realm.

> Do you believe it's possible that God doesn't rest on an actual throne, but showed John the vision of Himself sitting on a throne surrounded by 24 other thrones in order to symbolically communicate His glory and sovereignty?

Yes.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Sun Oct 28, 2018 4:34 pm

> Hmm. No I'm not. I think to say "God is heaven" would lead to too much misunderstanding.

What kinds of misunderstandings do you believe "God is Heaven" would have lead to, unlike "God is Love", "God is Light", or "God is Truth"?

Also, given that a plain reading of the Bible could easily lead somebody to believe Heaven is a place, how did you personally reach the conclusion that Heaven must be God's presence?

> There are possibilities in this direction. Some theologians take various perspectives on eternity and hell: semi-restorationism, reconciliationism, and annihilationism. C.S. Lewis, a writer and thinker greatly respected by Christians, wrote: "We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him." All we can be certain of is that God's righteous nature and His omniscience will enable him to be flawlessly fair. No one, in their eternal destiny, will be able to honestly claim, "I was not treated fairly."

I suppose I'll leave it at that, since we've already had a long discussion over this subject a few months earlier.

> Yes I am. I believe in metaphysical realities that truly exist but share no part in matter or energy. Isn't time like this? Time has no ontological association with matter or energy, and yet no one (to my knowledge) would claim it doesn't exist. The spirit realm, I believe, is as real as the physical realm.

So how do you think the spiritual realm intertwines with the physical realm without sharing any part in matter or energy?
Regnis Numis
 

Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Oct 28, 2018 4:36 pm

> What kinds of misunderstandings do you believe "God is Heaven" would have lead to, unlike "God is Love", "God is Light", or "God is Truth"?

Truth, light, and love are qualities—attributes. Heaven is a different category of thing, and not an attribute.

> Also, given that a plain reading of the Bible could easily lead somebody to believe Heaven is a place, how did you personally reach the conclusion that Heaven must be God's presence?

In the same sense that "the kingdom of God" is wherever the king is (Jesus said, "The kingdom is here), heaven is presence with God, not a place we can find with a strong telescope. Also, "presence" is a major theme through all of Scripture, from Genesis 1 to Rev. 22. It pops up in major stories throughout the whole. the covenant is about his presence, the temple is about his presence, Jesus is about his presence. Eternity is about his presence, too.

> So how do you think the spiritual realm intertwines with the physical realm without sharing any part in matter or energy?

It's obvious that God can enter time and space, and intertwine with matter and energy, since he did so in the person of Jesus. It's also apparent that spiritual entities can intertwine with matter and energy in that we see angels in the Bible taking on physical form at times (Gen. 18 et al.).
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:00 am

> Truth, light, and love are qualities—attributes. Heaven is a different category of thing, and not an attribute.

Even if Heaven isn't an attribute, how would saying "God is Heaven" not lead people to believing they must seek God's presence to reach Heaven? How else would people have interpreted the meaning behind that statement?

> It's obvious that God can enter time and space, and intertwine with matter and energy, since he did so in the person of Jesus. It's also apparent that spiritual entities can intertwine with matter and energy in that we see angels in the Bible taking on physical form at times (Gen. 18 et al.).

That would demonstrate how spiritual entities could interact with the physical universe, but how does the spiritual realm itself intertwine with the physical realm on a daily basis? After all, you agreed that a dimension not composed of matter and energy may somehow be part of our known universe.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:44 am

> how would saying "God is Heaven" not lead people to believing they must seek God's presence to reach Heaven?

We have to be more than careful not to reduce God to being perceived as less than he is. Exodus 20.4-6 are warnings not to perceive God with inadequate mental images, physical representations that might make God smaller than He is, or even idols that are meant to represent God. People often perceive heaven as material structures, a particular environment, or as a collection of objects. To perceive God as heaven is a risky proposition of tempting people to think less of God than what he is. To think of him as truth, light, or life is grand enough; to think of Him as heaven could be risking making God too small or restricted in people's mind. I just think it's risky business that most likely will not lead us in a worthy direction.

> That would demonstrate how spiritual entities could interact with the physical universe, but how does the spiritual realm itself intertwine with the physical realm on a daily basis? After all, you agreed that a dimension not composed of matter and energy may somehow be part of our known universe.

In the ancient Near East, people made no distinction between natural and supernatural. The spiritual world was continuously and ubiquitously intertwined with the natural world. They perceived the natural world and the supernatural world as working in perpetual harmony. The Israelites believed that God was always active in the world in numerous both detectable and often undetectable ways. They believed that when they planted wheat, God was involved in its growth no less than rain, soil, and fertilizer. The operations of the world that we consider regular and predictable and can be described in scientific ways would have been considered no less the works of God to them. God was always functioning in an active role in everyday life. That's why we read so often in the Old Testament that God brought a drought just as much as God brought the rain. When someone was born or died, it wasn't just conception or disease but also the act of God. They didn't see God as bypassing natural processes to raise a crop, or negating them to do a miracle. God had his fingers in every pie.

In our scientific era, we work hard to separate and to attempt to see the categories of natural and supernatural. It's interesting to ponder which worldview is more accurate.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Thu Nov 01, 2018 12:57 pm

> People often perceive heaven as material structures, a particular environment, or as a collection of objects. To perceive God as heaven is a risky proposition of tempting people to think less of God than what he is.

I assume you're referring to the ancients' mindset? Because modern people like you and I today would probably realize "God is Heaven" actually means that to be in His presence is Heaven.

> In the ancient Near East, people made no distinction between natural and supernatural. The spiritual world was continuously and ubiquitously intertwined with the natural world. They perceived the natural world and the supernatural world as working in perpetual harmony.

Since you've implied the spiritual realm is intertwined with the physical realm during daily life, does that mean when Jesus states God is in Heaven, He is actually saying God exists as an invisible force throughout the physical universe?

> That's why we read so often in the Old Testament that God brought a drought just as much as God brought the rain. When someone was born or died, it wasn't just conception or disease but also the act of God. They didn't see God as bypassing natural processes to raise a crop, or negating them to do a miracle. God had his fingers in every pie.

Given your description of the Israelites' view of God, it sounds like He had a hand in every death, disaster, and disease. I'm not looking to start another debate over the Problem of Evil, but I thought I'd just point it out.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Nov 01, 2018 1:04 pm

> I assume you're referring to the ancients' mindset?

Actually I was referring to a modern mindset with this sentence.

> Since you've implied the spiritual realm is intertwined with the physical realm during daily life, does that mean when Jesus states God is in Heaven, He is actually saying God exists as an invisible force throughout the physical universe?

I guess I wouldn't say that's what Jesus meant by "God is in heaven," but I would say that Jesus distinctly believe that God exists as an invisible force throughout the physical universe, yes.

> Given your description of the Israelites' view of God, it sounds like He had a hand in every death, disaster, and disease. I'm not looking to start another debate over the Problem of Evil, but I thought I'd just point it out.

Yes, actually, the OT does speak that way. It was their worldview. 1 Sam. 16.14 - the evil spirit sent from God. 2 Sam. 12 - God killed the baby. Exodus - God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Genesis 38. 1-10 - the deaths of Er and Onan. Yep, the ancients drew no lines. It has stimulated quite a bit of discussion, for sure.
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Re: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Postby Regnis Numis » Thu Nov 01, 2018 4:49 pm

> Actually I was referring to a modern mindset with this sentence.

In that case, would you say it makes little difference whether Jesus said "God is Heaven" or "God is in Heaven" since the latter still leads people to misunderstanding Heaven as a place? Moreover, do you believe you personally would have still realized Heaven is God's presence if the Bible stated "God is Heaven"?
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