Nostalgia and The Last Question in the Bible

Do you ever miss “the good old days” or feel like life was better in the past? Do you miss the times when you were a child, and life felt simpler? Do you read about history, maybe about ages hundreds or thousands of years ago, and feel like times were better or more noble? You’re not alone in having these feelings. However, nostalgia is a dangerous and unwise longing in our hearts. Consider what Solomon, the wisest man on earth, had to say about this:

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. – Ecclesiastes 7:10

Why? Why is this unwise? Does this mean that we shouldn’t remember anything fondly? That we aren’t allowed to reminisce? Are our very memories a problem? I believe that these are honest questions, and the answer is not complicated. The reality is that there is a war going on over what, or who, we choose to worship. Does your longing for pastimes consume your thoughts? Are you afraid of the present or future? In the presence of Jesus, who makes all things new, why do you believe that the old days are better? These questions help drive us towards understanding why the Bible teaches us that nostalgic longing is unwise, yet remembering older days full of grace or sin is good. Consider these passages:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. – Psalm 107:8

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered. – 1 Chronicles 16:12

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. – Ephesians 2:12

And furthermore, Paul specifically divides the sad nostalgic longing Solomon warns us about, with a Godly grief:

Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10

The Last Question

Now, what does this all have to do with the last question in the Bible? Considering the fact that Revelation gives us prophesies of the end times, this is the last question that mankind can come up with. Imagine generations of wisdom and knowledge, the entirety of human history behind us. The nostalgia must be at its peak! And what does mankind manage to say?

“Was there ever a city like this great city?” – Revelation 18:18

This is the last question in the Bible! The last question mankind can come up with! The city they’re asking about must be important, right? It must be a pretty great city! No. They’re talking about Babylon. And what is Babylon known for?

The name written on her forehead was a mystery:

Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth.

I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. – Revelation 17:5-6

The last question mankind can come up with is full of nostalgia for a city that embodies all wickedness. This is the danger of nostalgia. Today, when companies or institutions collapse or disappear, do people often look back and ask the same question? Do people who got rich off of schemes and treachery, or even just ordinary employment through these companies, look back in sadness?

When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. – Revelation 18:9

The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore—cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves. – Revelation 18:11-13

Today, when banks collapse and there’s great disturbances in the economy and trade, do you hear this spoken?

They will say, “The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.”

The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn. – Revelation 18:14-15

I find it both sad and fitting that the last question in the entire Bible is mankind reminiscing about the city of Babylon, which represents all persecution, wickedness, worship of money, slavery, and all sin. It’s a shame that the last question isn’t “were we wrong this whole time?” or “should we start listening to the one who has the power to destroy Babylon?” Of course the question surrounds feelings of worldly grief over the most wicked institution on earth. But this nostalgia can only come when the old things are gone, and this is the key to how we, as Christians, can respond.

A Practical Application

Babylon was prophesied to be destroyed. The only people who would say “was there ever a city like this great city?” are the ones who never understood this:

“Then heaven and earth and all that is in them will shout for joy over Babylon, for out of the north destroyers will attack her,” declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 51:48

Why is that? This prophesy says that heaven and earth will shout for joy over the destruction of Babylon, that is, the destruction of the seat of man’s wickedness. Who will shout for joy? Not the merchants, not the traders of slaves, not the kings of the earth who committed adultery with sin. Who looks at the past with joy?

“Rejoice over her, you heavens! Rejoice, you people of God! Rejoice, apostles and prophets! For God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you.” – Revelation 18:20

The people of God, the apostles, and the prophets! Christians should look upon the past, our sinful lives, the destruction of our Babylons with joy! This is because God is making something new.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:5

In addition to this call to joy for Christians, instead of a nostalgic longing, we can return to Solomon’s original advice on the matter. He continues his lesson about how this worldly grief is unwise, with a challenge for us when we’re most vulnerable to nostalgia: when the present time isn’t going so well.

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.

Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it.

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. – Ecclesiastes 7:10-14

This may seem like a grim reality, but the realization that God has made all things for their own purposes, including the past that we often idolize, helps us to begin reframing our lives around what God has done, and is doing. In the past, we were dead to our sin, but Jesus has made us alive and transforms us. When we look to the past, we should have joy in seeing what God has done for us, and how much he has blessed us and shown us grace in the midst of our sin. When the Babylons in our lives are starting to crumble, get out, and don’t look back!

Then I heard another voice from heaven say:

‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. – Revelation 18:4-5

The voice quotes Jeremiah:

Come out of her, my people! Run for your lives! Run from the fierce anger of the LORD. – Jeremiah 51:45

We shouldn’t be asking the last question in the Bible. We should be looking at the past with joy, and we should be running for our lives towards the only one who can save us!

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

The Objection of John

I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me? – Matthew 3:14

This week I had the pleasure of having my artwork chosen for the second year in a row to be displayed at my church. This year, my church’s “Call to Artists” is an opportunity to create artwork in response to our current series on the book of Matthew. I chose the Objection of John, which I define as the key moment when John the Baptist initially objects to Jesus’ request to be baptized.

John the Baptist heralds the coming of the Messiah, and understands the majesty and power of Jesus more than anyone. After John tells everyone that someone greater than himself is coming, who should show up but Jesus? John baptized with water for repentance, and undoubtedly saved countless people from death, so why should the Son of Man, who can walk on water and has nothing to repent, be baptized by water by someone lesser than himself?

In this drawing, I wanted to convey the chaos of our sinful lives, and how John was working hard to save us from the storm and point us to Christ. And yet, Jesus approaches on dry ground. The water and storm has no power over him and cannot touch him, but he chooses to take the same path as us and enter the boat. On John’s face is written in Greek:

Ἐγὼ χρείαν ἔχω ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι, καὶ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με;

“I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?”

Imagine John, having just said that he isn’t even worthy to hold Jesus’ sandals, now being asked to help the God of the Universe fulfill all righteousness.

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. – Matthew 3:15

If you would like to see my submission from last year, you can check it out below:

What’s the Point of Boring Genealogies in the Bible?

Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked. – 1 Chronicles 4:10

When you encounter genealogies in the bible, do you skip over them? Do you feel like they’re monotonous, uninteresting, or that they distract from the story? Why are they there? If all scripture is God-breathed, why are some parts so boring? Why are some parts so uninspiring? If throughout your entire life you only had access to, and knowledge of, one page of the bible, and that page was a genealogy, would you choose to commit your life to Christ? In this post, I’m going to go over why the answer to that last question could be yes. We’re going to see how the bible’s genealogies serve a dual purpose for the detail oriented, and the story oriented.

A Gift from God

Before we dive in, we need to reframe our way of thinking about something in the bible that could be boring. We need to start thinking about it as an opportunity to understand God.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The key here is that when it says all scripture, this includes the genealogies. This means that they are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. Genealogies better equip us for righteous work.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105

When you see Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, it is a lamp to our feet. The census of the Israelites in Numbers 1 and 26 is a light to our path. There are more, but if you’re not willing to consider these lists as coming from the mouth of God for our good, then it becomes more difficult to continue to our next point.

The Gift of Detail

God is a highly detailed, meticulous person. He is concerned with everything, and he pays attention to the smallest things.

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. – Romans 8:28

What this means for us is that the detail of the genealogies is a gift. How can we use this gift? Paul uses this detail, our knowledge of genealogy from Noah to Christ, to witness to the philosophers of Athens:

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. – Acts 17:26-27

We’re also able to see the result of the two censuses in Numbers 1 and 26. This level of detail shows that by the end of the wilderness exile, everyone from the first census was dead, fulfilling God’s decree. The names of the living families from the first list don’t show up in the second list. It’s also interesting to see that the number barely fluctuates over the 38 year timespan:

The total number was 603,550. – Numbers 1:46

The total number of the men of Israel was 601,730. – Numbers 26:51

Because the Israelites kept such good genealogical records, Paul is able to prove his credentials:

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee. – Philippians 3:5-6

In the same way, the Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 help prove that he is the Messiah, and the lawful King of Israel:

And when he had removed Saul, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. – Acts 13:22-23

But we don’t need proof that Jesus is the Messiah, right? Isn’t this unnecessary, if all you need is faith? My answer to this is that the prophesies and signs of Christ existed so that every test could be passed, and every detail could be fulfilled, so that there could be no doubt.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

It is good to pay attention to these details, as the genealogies in the bible are good and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. We are encouraged to pay attention:

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. – Acts 17:11

But what if you’re not detail oriented? What if it’s just really hard to track the details, and you never really feel encouraged or compelled by the Spirit when reading genealogies?

The Gift of a Diamond in the Rough

I have one solution for how to read biblical genealogies if you’re not detail oriented: look for the person who isn’t like anyone else. Look for a break in the pattern. If you’re looking for a story in a list of names, God has placed someone in there just for you. God knows that genealogies aren’t for everyone, so he made them interesting. Let’s explore what this could look like, while paying attention to how the pattern of names suddenly changes:

1. The genealogy in Genesis 10 reveals when the Tower of Babel event occurs

The sons of Shem were Elam and Asshur and Arpachshad and Lud and Aram.

The sons of Aram were Uz and Hul and Gether and Mash.

Arpachshad became the father of Shelah; and Shelah became the father of Eber.

Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan. – Genesis 10:22-25

2. The genealogy of Jesus, where mothers are suddenly named, which is unusual when listing only fathers. This points out to us that even prostitutes or people who weren’t Israelites could be a part of Jesus’ family

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. – Matthew 1:1-6

3. In the second census of Israel, we find an interesting break in the pattern. Out of over 600,000 people, only one family had only daughters. While, in that culture at the time, this is normally not seen as a good thing, it seems God blesses Zelophehad by including the names of all of his daughters. Nobody else gets to have their children’s names put in this census, not even their sons’ names!

These were the descendants of Gilead: through Iezer, the Iezerite clan;

through Helek, the Helekite clan;

through Asriel, the Asrielite clan;

through Shechem, the Shechemite clan;

through Shemida, the Shemidaite clan;

through Hepher, the Hepherite clan. Zelophehad son of Hepher had no sons; he had only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. – Numbers 26:30-33

4. And finally, my favorite break in the genealogy pattern, Jabez. In a list of names, this is such a powerful change in pace

These were the descendants of Hur, the firstborn of Ephrathah and father of Bethlehem.

Ashhur the father of Tekoa had two wives, Helah and Naarah. Naarah bore him Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni and Haahashtari.

These were the descendants of Naarah. The sons of Helah: Zereth, Zohar, Ethnan, and Koz, who was the father of Anub and Hazzobebah and of the clans of Aharhel son of Harum.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. – 1 Chronicles 4:3-10


Whether you like the details, or you’re looking for a special story, the genealogies in the bible are a gift from God. In them, we find amazing prayers, bountiful grace and compassion, and a deeper understanding of God.

The next time you’re reading scripture and come across a genealogy, look for that special person who isn’t like everyone else. Similarly, in our daily lives, we exist in a pattern of work, pain, confusion, stress, anxiety, and sin. God is calling you out of your repetitive life, and into the prayer of Jabez, into his compassion for Zelophehad, and into the family of Jesus alongside Rahab. These genealogies are a light to our feet, and a lamp to our path.

Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families.

I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. – Nehemiah 7:4-5

What Can Witchcraft Teach Us About the Bible?

I like asking interesting questions about the Bible, and I like trying to answer them using scripture. The problem with this is what if I’m wrong? What if I convince myself that I’m right? What if I put all the right scripture together to back up my answers, but completely miss the point? This happened while I was preparing my next blog topic, and the living word of God showed me that I needed to take a step back before making a mistake.

The topic I was researching was any examples in scripture where spirits are raised up from the dead and communicated with. This stems from an interest in how the Bible tackles the occult, and how God uses spiritual communication in a righteous way. My reaction to the passages I found made me devise a hypothesis: it’s not possible to communicate with the spirit of any unsaved person who died. Consider some choice examples that back up this claim:


The woman asked, “Who is it that I should bring up for you?” Saul said, “Bring up for me Samuel.” When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out loudly. – 1 Samuel 28:11-12

Here, Saul has a medium conjure up the spirit of Samuel, a prophet. Samuel was dead, and through witchcraft spoke directly to Saul. Why did the witch cry out? Was it because her communication with spirits never really worked before, until now?


After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. – Matthew 17:1-3

On the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appear to everyone and speak with Jesus. Now, it’s worth noting that Elijah never died to begin with:

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. – 2 Kings 2:11

The point is that Moses’ spirit is seen long after his death, and he communicates with Jesus. And furthermore, Moses was saved, like Samuel.

Various Saints

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.

The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. – Matthew 27:50-53

After Jesus’ death, a very peculiar thing happens. Now, this post isn’t about the deeper meaning behind this passage in particular. But it’s worth noting that this is ambiguous as to the real nature of what happened. Were their actual, physical bodies raised from the dead until their later death, as with Lazarus? Or was this a more spiritual event, emphasizing their appearance to many, but not all people? Either way, the event lends credence towards my original hypothesis because Matthew says that they were holy people. No one in this event was unsaved.

Mistaken Doctrine

If you take these passages and attempt to create some doctrine around them, you may come to a similar type of conclusion that I originally made. My hypothesis was that the only way for a spirit to be communicated with after death, was if they already had salvation. And this makes sense for the most part, because of what Jesus says here:

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,

‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” – Matthew 22:29-32

Jesus speaks as though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still alive. He does not say that he was the God of Abraham, but that he is. And indeed, they are alive in Christ and have eternal life through salvation. So it makes perfect sense that Jesus is able to see and talk to Moses, and that Saul is able to communicate with Samuel. If their spirits are living even now, why shouldn’t it be possible? But if you’re unsaved and die, how could you communicate with anyone?

For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.

– Ecclesiastes 9:5

So, even though there’s a lot of scripture backing up this pattern of communication with spirits, where’s the part I talked about at the beginning of this post? Where’s the big picture that I might have missed?

The issue lies in the warning Jesus gave us earlier when he says that he is the God of the living. Look again at the beginning of his statement:

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” – Matthew 22:29

This should make anyone researching the mechanics of communicating with dead spirits shudder. The Sadducees were testing Jesus and asking him about how marriage to multiple people is affected in the afterlife. This seemingly fair and simple question revealed a vast ignorance that Jesus points out. And I didn’t want to fall prey to the same problem. I want to know the scriptures and the power of God! So, what if my question isn’t even deserving of an answer, because the whole premise is just wrong? What if my understanding of dead spirits is completely lacking? After contemplating this, I wanted to look at resurrection instead of spiritual communication, because that’s what Jesus wanted to talk about.

Let’s apply my original hypothesis to the raising of the dead. Can the unsaved be resurrected? This question is answered quite plainly:

There shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. – Acts 24:15

And what about resurrection today, and not just isolated to the end-times?

Elisha died and was buried.

Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet. – 2 Kings 13:20-21

And there’s nothing else to this story. That’s it! It never says if this man was saved or not, and we’ll never know the answer. Why is it there? Today, I believe it’s there for me. I believe this happened so that I would slow down and not look for a hidden message that just isn’t there. The targeted ambiguity of the Bible should not be taken lightly, and when details are removed, it means the details don’t matter. We’ll never know if he was a righteous man, because there’s no secret doctrine developing here.

Does this mean that unsaved spirits can be conjured up and communicated with? To get to the point, it’s important to note that the communication with spirits through witchcraft is done by the unsaved. So we know that it is not impossible for Satanic powers to accomplish this. Likewise, Satan is able to perform perverted resurrections, among other miracles:

One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. – Revelation 13:3

In light of this, and Jesus’ condemnation of ignorance surrounding this ambiguous, often occult related activity, I have a conclusion and a final answer to my original hypothesis.


Can the spirits of the unsaved be communicated with after death? When we face a question like this, which has seemingly no clear answer in the Bible, let us answer it as Jesus did:

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” – Matthew 22:29

How can we better know the scriptures?

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, or he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. – Proverbs 2:1-11

What is right and just and fair, concerning the communication with spirits?

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.

For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. – Deuteronomy 13:1-3

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. – Revelation 21:8

So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. – 1 Chronicles 10:13

The only times in the Bible that the communication with dead spirits was a righteous and positive event, was directly related to Jesus’ nature as the Son of God. This being his transfiguration, and the power of his death. These are things that we cannot do.

To conclude this topic, it’s still okay to ask questions like this. But be prepared to be wrong about your assumptions, and be prepared to accept ambiguity. The truth is, scripture makes it clear what is right and wrong. And when it starts to take away details, we need to slow down and inquire of God. After all of this, I believe that any strange things are possible with witchcraft, which can emulate amazing miracles and confuse us if we aren’t vigilant. Be prepared for Satan to try to fill the gaps in the ambiguity of scripture. Instead, seek out God’s guidance.

Can the unsaved be communicated with after death? Maybe we’ll never know, and that’s ok. Maybe you know of a passage that debunks my original claims! But, whether or not my hypothesis is true, we do know for certain what is right concerning the communication with spirits:

“When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.” – Isaiah 8:19-22

What My Father Means to Me

One icy cold, frozen day in 2017, I woke up around 4am. I had a job to do: drive my parents to the airport for an early flight. My dad and my oldest sister bought a Saab 95 a few years prior, a great car that they were kind enough to let me use during my last years in college. My sister lived overseas, and would use it when she visited home, so in the mean time it was my responsibility.

I dreaded this early morning. I never liked driving when the roads were icy. I’ve had a history of getting stuck in snow, bending axels on curbs, and getting my car towed because someone’s driveway wasn’t plowed and I couldn’t see it. All careless mistakes over the years that made me increasingly anxious anytime I had to drive on icy roads.

But I had to drive my parents to the airport. So when we were ready, we left and I headed down the first road after my parent’s neighborhood, which ended in a stop sign. Now, when you approach stop signs on icy roads, you need to start slowing down a long ways away. I treated it like a normal summer day and slowed down far too close to the sign. Because the roads were icy, the car slid and I crashed into a ditch on the other side of the road, unable to get the car out.

My parents weren’t going to make it to their flight. My grandparents picked them up, and I had to wait in the ditch alone, waiting for a tow-truck to get the car out. When a tow-truck came, to make matters worse, they refused to get me out without a police car to block the road, meaning I would get a ticket. I was incredibly tired, frustrated, angry, bitter, and self-loathing over another car accident to add to my resume. And the car was totaled, not my car, but my sister and father’s car.

When I finally got home, I did what I always did to cope with my pain: I painstakingly cleaned my room. Every inch was overturned, even the things that were already clean and organized were completely torn apart and redone. While I did this, I dreaded what could come next. What would my sister think of me? She loved that car. It was one-of-a-kind, sporty, highly customized, irreplaceable. But even more so, what would my father finally say? He had his trip to think about at the moment, but I knew that when he had time to collect his thoughts, I would hear them. I heard his gasps and the painful “no, no, no…” as I veered into the ditch. I saw the pain and disappointment in his eyes. I knew the trouble I had caused once more.

So Judas came to the garden of Gethsemane, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

– John 18:3

And yet, just like Judas, I misjudged the character of my father. Judas believed that he needed soldiers and weapons, because he thought Jesus would fight him. He viewed Jesus as many view God today: angry, quick to smite, and belligerent. My father had a choice in all of this, a choice on how to respond to what I had done. He chose to not yell, to not make my pain even greater. My father forgave me and bought me a new car.

This story may not seem like much to some, who have experienced far worse in life, and perhaps have been given far greater. To some, it was just a car crash: no one was hurt, and my father replaced the car. But to me, this was when my life was transformed. This was when I realized what it meant to be a father. This was when I realized that my father was sent by God to be an example to me, and to bring out something in me that I never knew was there.

For several months I pondered this grace, and searched for ways I could share what I learned. I had written a book before about the Mayflower, but who was I to write about theology? To write about God? I’m a man full of mistakes, and sin, and pain, how could I be qualified to write about a Holy God? But the disciples didn’t have years of theological experience, they didn’t go to seminary, they were ordinary people living broken lives that were transformed, and they wrote the gospels.

For the first time in my life, I was convicted to beg God for wisdom, wisdom to see what scripture says about being a father, wisdom to understand the character of my own father. At this time, I was working as an intern during the summer. And little did my coworkers know, I cried every day in my cubicle. Every day at my job I spent my lunch breaks reading the word of our living God, and writing down how they applied to my father. These writings formed my book called My Father’s House, which I gave to my dad on Father’s Day that year.

The book I wrote sparked a certain momentum in my life, where I began asking God questions, and writing about the answers he gives us in scripture. My first question was how can I be a father one day, like my dad? As for the title of this post, what does my father mean to me, I’ll tell you. He’s the reason I write about God. He’s the reason that I remain confident in God as my Heavenly Father. Today, I still drive the new car he gave me. As for my sister, Karis, if you’re reading this, know that I’ll always be sorry for what I did. Yet at the same time, I am glad that God has transformed my life because of it. Likewise, we ought to be sorry for the sins we have committed against God and our neighbors, but thankful for God’s grace, and one day, the gift of eternal life.

If you’d like to read the book that I wrote for my father, it’s available below on Amazon:

Happy Father’s Day to my dad!

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

– Ephesians 6:4

Should We Forgive the Dead?

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” – Isaiah 43:25

What happens if someone wrongs you, and they die before you can forgive them? What happens when someone is a victim of sexual assault, or physical abuse, or infidelity, or lies, or sin; and at the end of an often long period of healing, the person they want to forgive can’t be found or is dead? What happens if you forgive someone and they don’t care? What happens if they don’t change? What happens if your forgiveness doesn’t result in reconciliation?

The bible is full of examples of forgiveness, but sometimes it seems like they’re only relevant when everyone is still alive or accessible. This post will go over what scripture has to say regarding these complicated life questions. The answer to these questions depend upon how God views the living and the dead, and who is really affected by forgiveness.

Who is really affected by forgiveness

When we forgive someone, how are they affected? When God forgives us of our sins, do we change? When Israel sinned against God over and over, Moses asked for God’s forgiveness:

“In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.”

– Numbers 14:19-23

Did the people of Israel change because of God’s forgiveness?

When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly. Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. Surely we have sinned!”

But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed!”

– Numbers 14:39-41

God’s forgiveness did not change them. They continued to sin. Likewise, even after God forgives you and me, we still experience temptation:

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.'”

– Luke 11:24

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.

– Proverbs 26:11

Forgiveness affects the one who forgives

Forgiveness doesn’t cause repentance or reconciliation. These things are a choice. If they did then Jesus would have never told us to forgive the same person over and over:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!”

– Matthew 18:21-22

Instead, forgiveness caused God to not destroy Moses and all of Israel after they sinned in his holy presence. Forgiveness caused God to not kill King David after he slept with Bathsheba and had her husband killed:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

– 2 Samuel 12:13-14

Forgiveness caused God to relent and not destroy Nineveh after Jonah warned them about their sin:

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

– Jonah 3:10

In all these events, it is the one who forgives that relents and does not give into sin:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

– Ephesians 4:31-32

These negative traits are simply not in the nature of God. He must forgive us to prove his nature of grace and mercy:

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

– Isaiah 43:25

God’s forgiveness of our sins affects him dramatically. In that moment, it becomes his responsibility to blot out our sin. It becomes his choice to relent from wrath and anger, and instead focus on discipline.

With an understanding of who forgiveness really affects, the answer to our original question, “should we forgive the dead?” becomes clear.

For our own sake

“For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”

– Matthew 6:14-15

This is the clearest answer imaginable: Yes we should forgive everyone, including the dead. This has nothing to do with whether the people Jesus is talking about in this verse are alive or dead. This has to do with our nature becoming closer and closer to God’s nature. God forgives for his own sake to prove his righteous nature. Likewise, we should forgive for our own sake, that we do not harbor bitterness, resentment, thoughts of revenge, or sinful anger. We should prove our desire to be more graceful and merciful, as Christians, by forgiving.

God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others. God will not forgive us if we continue to willfully harbor bitterness, wrath, slander, and malice; especially for the dead, who we can never reconcile with. The dead will surely never change, so the only one who has the opportunity to change is us while we still live.

When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.

– Psalm 146:4

Forgive so that God can forgive you. God will demonstrate his grace and mercy, and you will have bitterness, sinful anger, slander, and resentment removed piece by piece from your nature.

How can I make sure I forgive everyone?

With the stakes so high, how can we be sure that we’re forgiving everyone, so that God can forgive us? What if we miss someone? What if we can’t remember? And if someone who wronged you died, as time goes on you might forget about them, but not the bitterness or pain that you’ve become accustomed to:

For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.

– Ecclesiastes 9:5

If we forget, or miss someone, will God still withhold his forgiveness, as Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15?

No. Jesus exemplifies why God’s forgiveness is not contingent upon our human limitations:

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

– Luke 23:33-34

But when we know full well what we’re doing, seek to forgive. Ask God to reveal opportunities in your life to forgive people while they’re still alive. Anything can happen while people are still living, anything like reconciliation, repentance, and evangelism. Forgiveness is powerful, and showing someone your increasingly graceful and merciful nature can impact them in a similar way Jesus’ life impacts you.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

– Romans 5:8-9

As for the dead who have wronged you, forgive them now and God will forgive you also, as he promised. Your forgiveness of them is for your sake, and in so doing your nature will look more and more like Jesus’ when he forgave you for crucifying him while you were dead in sin:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

– Ephesians 2:1-5

Should we forgive the dead? Jesus forgave us while we were dead in sin. Let us do the same to anyone who has sinned against us, whether they’re alive or dead.

Speaking in Tongues in the Old Testament

Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen.

‭- Isaiah‬ ‭28:11‬-12

Speaking in tongues is the least understood, least talked about, and, according to Paul, the least important spiritual gift. And yet, entire doctrines are established around it. Its importance is greatly magnified, and we start an unhealthy habit of majoring on the minors. God is telling us quite simply that he is the resting place, but so frequently we don’t listen and dwell on insignificant doctrines to include/exclude ourselves and our neighbors from salvation.

Paul gives us all of the information we need to understand what speaking in tongues means, and the Old Testament gives us an example of it being used. In this post, we’re going to look at what speaking in tongues really looks like, what the sign of tongues is for, and how we can steer back our focus to the simple, powerful message of Christ: he is the resting place.

Are we sure this happens in the Old Testament?

Many commentators will answer this question with a resounding no, and the reason cited it that speaking in tongues only appears after Pentecost. And this would be a convincing argument if all of the spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit only occurred after Pentecost as well. But that’s not true.

To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

– 1 Corinthians 12:8-10

Before Pentecost, in the Old Testament, how did Isaiah prophesy? How did Samson destroy the Philistine temple? How did Abraham have faith in God? How did Solomon have such divine wisdom? These feats all come from an indwelling spirit that has been with us since the beginning:

By His Spirit He adorned the heavens;
His hand pierced the fleeing serpent.

– Job 26:13

Therefore, speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift that Pentecost didn’t invent. Paul is able to list all of the gifts because he understands what the Holy Spirit has done in the Old Testament.

What does speaking in tongues look like?

What do you imagine when you think about speaking in tongues? Most likely you think about ecstatic utterances, unintelligible words, or the speaking of a heavenly language.

The thing is, there is no mention of a heavenly language in the Bible, no scripture that shows this being used through the Holy Spirit. When we see the word tongues used in the New Testament, the original Greek word is γλῶσσα, transliterated as glossa, it has two meanings depending on the very simple context of either anatomy or language:

1)  The tongue, a member of the body, an organ of speech

2) The language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations.

– Strong’s Concordance, reference #1100

Wherever you see the word tongues in the New Testament, it means either the physical tongue, or a human, natural language. This is the word the original authors of the Bible chose to use. Therefore, at Pentecost, the apostles spoke human languages:

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

– Acts 2:4-8

Jesus, who exemplifies all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t use ecstatic utterances or a heavenly language ever. But he speaks in foreign languages:

We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

– Acts 26:14-15

Do you really think we can do more than what Jesus did? More than the apostles? More than what the Holy Spirit provides?

Is speaking in tongues a sign of salvation?

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers.

– 1 Corinthians 14:22

We always want more signs that we’re saved! Everyone wants a sign. Everyone wants something tangible to prove they’re saved. Everyone wants a sign that God is real, that Jesus is God, and that their baptism worked. Jesus was so sick of this sentiment:

“Evil and unfaithful people look for a miraculous sign. But the only sign they will be given is that of Jonah.”

Then he left them standing there and went away.

– Matthew 16:4

The only sign we’re given for our salvation is the sign of Jonah, the sign of a transformed life. Is a broken, sinful life, transformed in Christ and renewed in righteousness not enough for us? Speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers, not a sign for believers to validate themselves.

Is speaking in tongues okay without interpretation?

Does speaking in tongues without anyone to interpret build up the church?

Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me.

So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

– 1 Corinthians 14:9-12

The Old Testament shows us a real-world example of speaking in another language, in a way that builds up the church through both the tongues and the interpreter:

Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.

– Daniel 5:8-9

You did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

This is the inscription that was written:


Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

– Daniel 5:24-28

Here, God himself uses tongues! And Daniel interprets. Imagine if God wrote those words and Daniel never interpreted them. It would have been meaningless. Even still, God wasn’t using a secret, heavenly language. He used Aramaic, which the king couldn’t understand, to allow his prophet an audience to speak.

So many of us believe that speaking in tongues without anyone understanding is from God. Paul says otherwise:

For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

– 1 Corinthians 14:13-14

When you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying?

You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

– 1 Corinthians 14:16-17

Should we actively seek to speak in tongues?

Paul, who could speak many different languages, says this:

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

– 1 Corinthians 14:18-19

And he further continues to place far more importance on apostles, prophets, and teachers in the church, than in the spiritual gift of speaking foreign languages:

And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

– 1 Corinthians 12:38-41

What should we focus on?

This is the great issue I mentioned at the beginning of this post: majoring on the minors. Paul uses Isaiah to explain why tongues are a sign strictly for unbelievers, and how it’s childish to think that it’s an ecstatic utterance of a made-up, meaningless language that no one can interpret:

Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. In the Law it is written:

“With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers.

– 1 Corinthians 14:20-22

The law quoted is from Isaiah, who faced a similar issue. Isaiah shared the message of God, and the response of Ephraim and Judah was childish. “Who is he trying to teach?” They mock. “To children weaned from their milk?” Isaiah writes:

Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen.

So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there— so that as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured.”

– ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭28:11-13‬

God has but one simple message for us today on the topic of tongues: This is the resting place, let the weary rest. But so many of us see God’s word and see “Do this, do that” or “follow all these rules” and they become snared and captured. They focus on the tongues, they focus on the signs, and it distracts from the entire purpose of Christ’s message. After death when we face judgement, God won’t ask if we ever spoke in tongues. The thief on the cross didn’t speak in tongues. Instead, when we die, God will say this:

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

– Matthew 25:34-36

The Drumroll of Death

Detracting from my usual content, this post will explain a piece of artwork that I created in response to my church’s first “Call to Artists” program, focusing on our current series on Genesis. This piece was chosen by my church’s art committee and was on display for a few months. I thought of the most impactful passage we covered, and I interpreted what it meant to me visually. This post is about the Drumroll of Death in Noah’s genealogy.

The Bible has many genealogies listed out, and usually we gloss over them because they’re boring or repetitive. But the thing is, there’s a message in all of scripture, even the genealogies. They’re not just historical accounts, they speak to the reality we face every day. Noah’s genealogy is no exception. Consider a small snippet from his lineage:

After the birth of Seth, Adam lived another 800 years, having more sons and daughters. Adam lived a total of 930 years. And he died. – Genesis 5:5

When Seth was 105 years old, he had Enosh. After Seth had Enosh, he lived another 807 years, having more sons and daughters. Seth lived a total of 912 years. And he died. – Genesis 5:6-8

When Enosh was ninety years old, he had Kenan. After he had Kenan, he lived another 815 years, having more sons and daughters. Enosh lived a total of 905 years. And he died. – Genesis 5:9-11

When Kenan was seventy years old, he had Mahalalel. After he had Mahalalel, he lived another 840 years, having more sons and daughters. Kenan lived a total of 910 years. And he died. – Genesis 5:12-14

This continues on and on. And he died, and he died, and he died. Adam’s life, the first human being, is reduced to a simple statement in the end: “and he died.” The only thing of note to happen in this genealogy is Enoch, who walked faithfully with God, and is described to have been “suddenly taken away.” No one else is mentioned to have walked with God, or accomplished anything noteworthy of God’s story. This lineage continues on and on, it is a drumroll of death. One after another, eventually everyone succumbs. All around us today, people live and die. It’s a sad reality that most people do not walk faithfully with God. Is this all there is to life? Living and dying over and over for countless generations?

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. – Genesis 6:8

Suddenly, a new name appears with a long, impactful story. After hundreds of years, a man named Noah finds favor in the eyes of God.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. – Genesis 6:9

In that generation, only Noah walked with God. In our generation, will we be a part of the sea and the drumroll of death? Or will we walk with God? My family experienced a lot of loss over the past couple of years, so this topic was not an easy one. Yet there is a light and encouragement that our lives can have an incredibly fulfilling purpose in Jesus Christ. When we die, will our work preach righteousness?

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” -Luke 17:26

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;

If he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness;

If he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

And if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard);

If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. – 2 Peter 2:4-9

There is an uncountable sea of people throughout history that did not walk with God, and it’s a sobering thought. I wanted to convey the seriousness of this through something visibly dark and eerie. Noah amongst the sea of godlessness and sin throughout the history of the world, The Drumroll of Death:

Why did it have to be Myrrh?

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:5

Pictured above are Myrrh trees, and behind them are some pivotal elements surrounding the answer to the question in this blog post. During Christmas, we often recite the story of Christ’s birth, including the gifts that the Magi gave: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But why these gifts? The reason for each of these gifts are often purely speculative, such as drawing parallels with gold and the Magi’s acknowledgement that Jesus is King, or frankincense and Exodus 30’s specific requirements for the altar of God. But what about myrrh? John says the following after Jesus’ death:

Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.

– John 19:39

We know that culturally, myrrh was used to prepare bodies for burial. We also know that myrrh, like frankincense, was included in Exodus 30 as a main ingredient in anointing oil to prepare priests. Is that why the Magi brought myrrh? If that was the only reason, you might think they would also have brought aloes. But this is all speculation. Is there something more concrete? Is there possibly more to this than tradition? We’re going to go through several points in order to build up a hypothesis as to why the Magi used specifically myrrh as a gift to Jesus. I believe myrrh can serve as a great reminder of truth, and as a great warning.

What we know

Daniel, a prophet from Babylon, east of Israel, is given the exact date Jesus would be born in Daniel 9, by Gabriel (see this post for more information)

The Magi also came from the east, and had to have known about Daniel’s prophecy in order to have shown up on Herod’s doorstep at the right time:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

– Matthew 2:1-2

Isaiah prophesizes the detailed events surrounding Jesus’ life and death in Isaiah 53 (and many other chapters as well)

The Magi are clearly well versed in Old Testament scripture, having known about Daniel, and even quoting Micah as their justification for looking in Bethlehem:

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:”

– Matthew 2:5

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.

Micah 5:2

Therefore, I believe we can assume that they also knew about one of the most prevalent prophets of the Old Testament: Isaiah. And more specifically, one of Isaiah’s prophecies:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:5

This assumption is further backed by the fact that people from all over the world knew about the book of Isaiah during this time:

So Philip started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.

– Acts 8:27-28

Even more interestingly, the eunuch was also reading a passage from Isaiah 53. The next point helps to show why this prophecy about Jesus’ crucifixion, which I’m asserting that the Magi understood, is so important for understanding the use of myrrh.

Myrrh was culturally significant to the region, and the process to harvest it is incredibly symbolic

Water that flowed from Roman aqueducts was not potable. It was full of bacteria, and would make anyone sick. So what was the solution? Vinegar or wine was added frequently, but also myrrh. Myrrh served as an excellent antiseptic. So can the symbolism come from the fact that myrrh turns bad water into drinkable water? If that was all of it, you’d think the Magi would have given Jesus vinegar and wine, which was significantly cheaper, but they gave him myrrh. Why?

Another good speculative reason is that this was a way that God helped finance Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt immediately after the Magi’s visit, via them selling the gifts. Could it be anything else? Anything more convicting? In our previous point, Isaiah said that Jesus would be pierced for our transgressions.

Myrrh being harvested

In order to harvest myrrh, the tree’s bark must be cut, and the myrrh resin is then collected. The very act of piercing a myrrh tree causes it to release a substance that gives life to dangerous water.

Putting it all together

Jesus, pierced for our transgressions, brings life giving water to us through his sacrifice. When his body was stabbed, after he had died on the cross, he let out blood and water:

One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

– John 19:34

On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

– Zechariah 13:1

Myrrh treated water and made it potable in Jesus’ time. Myrrh was expensive and could help pay for many needs for a new family. Myrrh trees must be pierced to let out this incredibly interesting, life-giving substance. Any yet, myrrh is not enough:

Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

– Mark 15:23

They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

– Psalm 69:21

(Gall is a bitter substance created with myrrh)

So were the Magi consciously giving myrrh as a gift to Jesus in reference to Isaiah’s prophecy? Did they only give it because they knew Christ would be pierced like the myrrh tree? We’ll never know the true answer, but I believe it’s no coincidence that myrrh is harvested in this specific way. I believe it’s no coincidence that myrrh transforms water physically, as Jesus transforms water spiritually. At the very least, the Magi’s gift of myrrh can serve as a great reminder of what is necessary to turn our broken, dead lives, into eternal life.

I am the real fruit tree. My Father is the One who takes care of the tree. He takes away from me every branch that does not bear fruit. And he cleans every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. What I said to you has made you clean already.

– John 15:1-3

A warning

I believe this message about myrrh also serves another purpose: a warning. There’s a reason Jesus didn’t accept the wine mixed with myrrh on the cross. It would have dulled the pain, and made everything easy. Jesus needed to suffer and to take on our punishments. He needed to die in this way to fulfill our ransom, and to buy our freedom from sin. In life, we face the easy way out constantly. We’re given a choice every day to dull our pain, whether it’s with alcohol, work, or other addictions that try to fill the void in our life.

At the window of my house I looked down through the lattice.
I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense

Out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent…

She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said…

“Today I fulfilled my vows, and I have food from my fellowship offering at home. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love!

All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter.

– Proverbs 7:6-22

There are people and things that will look ok, they’ll have all the right religious boxes checked off, like this Proverbs’ woman’s fellowship offering. But it is a wide road that many follow, and it leads to death. Myrrh, like all other things in life, cannot save us. But it is a great reminder of the truth: nothing can transform our souls except for Christ’s life-giving water. Only Jesus can save us. Myrrh is a reminder of the cost of Christ’s life-giving sacrifice, and a warning that there is no substitute for Jesus’ gift.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

– Matthew 7:13-14

Moses & Communion

“Among those who approach me, I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people, I will be honored.”

– Leviticus 10:3

Why is communion so dangerous? Paul says the following:

So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

– 1 Corinthians 11:27

Communion is an extensively practiced tradition in Christianity, and is a constant in almost every denomination. It holds great importance to many, and the apostles viewed it as a very special event. I’ve written about Communion in the Old Testament, and believe there is a lot of eternal meaning behind it besides simply eating some bread and drinking some wine. But why is it dangerous?

Paul’s verse merely points out the fact that it’s dangerous, but it doesn’t give us the why. What does unworthiness look like for us, if we’re all sinners anyway, and therefore are unworthy by nature? What is the consequence for sinning against the body and blood of the Lord? Why do some pastors ask that unbelievers not partake in communion? What does Moses have to do with communion and fire?

The Series of Fire

This is Part 2 of my Series of Fire that focuses on three of the most important uses of fire in the Bible: Baptism, Communion, and the image of God & Man. This post is all about communion, and how it relates to fire. If you’ve missed Part 1, you can read it here. In this post, I’m going to break down Moses’ experience with communion, and how he uniquely experienced the dangers and death surrounding God’s sacred fire, so that we can have an excellent example of what Paul means by unworthiness.


Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command.

So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

– Leviticus 10:1-2

This is a fatal and stunning start to a chapter in Leviticus. God quickly establishes the danger of unworthiness. Moses has an immediate response:

Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:
‘Among those who approach me, I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people, I will be honored.'”

Aaron remained silent.

– Leviticus 10:3

When Moses says “this is what the Lord spoke of,” take note that he’s not quoting any previous scripture. He’s quoting from experience and divine revelation, which seem obvious to us today in hindsight, considering all of the rules and regulations God laid out for the Israelites to follow. This revelation from God is the center-point of Paul’s warning about communion. God will be proved holy when approached in an unworthy manner. This is the power of God’s fire, and the consequence of unfamiliar fire.

I said that Moses was speaking from experience and divine revelation. When we encounter biblical quotations that don’t come from anywhere directly, it can often be found in many ways through earlier experiences. In this case, Moses has prior experience with the dangers of communing with God’s fire. We’re going to spend most of our time looking at Moses’ communion. This will show how Moses knew that Aaron’s sons were experiencing the same thing, but unworthily as Paul would put it.

Moses & Communion

In my post, Communion in the Old Testament (which I encourage you to read if you’d like a more in-depth look), I defined communion as an event that involves three things:

  1. Being present with a mediator
  2. Remembering that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God
  3. Remembering a covenant with God

In my Old Testament post, I identified Abraham as having communion through Melchizedek, and fulfilling these three requirements. How does Moses fit into this? When does Moses possibly fulfill these requirements? Let’s go through each of the three points.

Being present with a mediator

The Israelites were afraid of God, and rightly so. Moses is the mediator between God and man for this reason. Read what they say to him after the ten commandments are given:

“The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”

– Deuteronomy 5:24-27

This was the easy one. Let’s take a look at the next tenants of communion:

Remembering that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

– Exodus 24:9-11

This has always been such an astounding passage to me. Moses and the elders saw God. They ate and drank in the presence of God himself. This fulfills #2, remembering that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. How does it fulfill this requirement? Let’s answer another question first.

Why were they allowed to see God? Isn’t this a clear contradiction of scripture? Not so far away in another passage does God say to Moses:

“You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

– Exodus 33:20

And this is very true. No one can see God the Father and live. In fact, no one can even come to the Father except through the Son. So how does Moses’ experience work? Jesus explains:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

– John 14:6-7

The Pre-Incarnate Christ, something that I’ve covered a little in another post, is evidenced by Moses and the Elders being able to see God in a very special way. To eat with Jesus is to eat with the Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. To see Jesus is to see the Father.

We live and breathe by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It is Jesus himself that keeps Moses and the Elders alive. It is not our carefulness, not our righteousness, not our ability to avert our eyes when God’s mere presence could kill us. Jacob acknowledges this when he see’s the Father through the Pre-Incarnate Jesus:

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

– Genesis 32:30

Remembering a covenant with God

Then Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

– Exodus 24:5-7

In this passage, Moses has the blood of the covenant prepared from sacrifices, and everyone agrees to this covenant. Sound familiar? Moses is almost directly quoting Jesus during the Last Supper. This blood, poured out through sacrifice, represents the covenant. And with this, we’ve completed all three of the requirements for Moses’ communion: Moses as the mediator, the elders seeing God and living, and the blood of the covenant used in remembrance of the event.

Communion & Fire

Moses’ experience communing with God exemplifies such an astounding act of faith. If anyone was sitting at that table in Exodus 24:9 in an unworthy manner, God would be proved holy. But the message for us isn’t about being afraid of practicing the Judaic law in the correct manner. The message is about our attempts in life to supplant our precious time with God. Nadab and Abihu had such a unique responsibility, and they gave up the regulations to make it easier. They wanted their own fire to be used. They wanted to do it their way.

Communing with God is something we as Christians can uniquely partake in. When Paul talks about the danger, we’re not going to get burned up in the literal sense. Imagine the Old Testament showing the reality of what our soul is going through every time we sin. Every time we disobey God, he must be proved holy.

Though this seems grim, the blessing and grace we have is that the same consequences Nadab and Abihu faced, we will not face if we follow Christ. You see, it was Jesus who was burned by this fire of communion. It was Jesus who appeared before God in an unworthy manner by becoming sin itself:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

– Matthew 27:46

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:5

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

– Galatians 3:13

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

– 2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus suffered and died because we approach God in an unworthy manner with our sin, and God will be proved holy. But he was raised from the dead so that we could live as well. The next time you commune with God through prayer, traditional communion, or another way, do not forget what Jesus has suffered because of your own fire, or your unworthiness. Stop bringing your own fire in idolatry to God like Nadab and Abihu, and start looking to God’s fire like the Thessalonians, look to the Messiah:

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

– 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10