Friday, May 27, 2016

Chosen that we might be - Ephesians 1:4

"just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him." (Ephesians 1:4)
This verse is the conclusion of the previous verse where we are told that we have been blessed by God with every spiritual blessing available in the heavens. In this case, the first verse follows from the second. In other words, we have been blessed in as much as we have been chosen, Our blessing is not according to our merits or our achievements in righteousness, rather it is in accordance with His selection. Throughout history, God, at times, does things for no other reason than to demonstrate to us His ability to choose. Consider the case of Esau and Jacob. Paul writes, "for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, The older will serve the younger.' Just as it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'" (Romans 9:11-13) One son was chosen, not for any merits he had over the other, but simply that God's choice in choosing might stand. However, in our case, our choosing was not for one man against another but the choosing of one creation over another. Of all of God's wonderful creation, He has chosen mankind for his marvelous blessings, incomparable gifts, and inexpressible love. This should encourage us even through the difficult times in knowing that the blessings of God we enjoy and depend upon are not based on our own worthiness or the degree to which we deserve them, but upon God's willingness and generosity through His own choosing.

In this choosing we find the grand and eternal plan of God for mankind. Paul does not say that we were chosen to obey God or to serve Him through religion, although we most certainly do so, but we were chosen that we might be with Him; that we might stand in His very presence; enjoying Him as He enjoys us. From the very beginning of time, God chose to create mankind, out of all of creation, to be those who would eternally stand before Him in His presence in both holiness and perfection. This was His plan from the beginning and, although sin has entered to mar His creation, this is but temporary for, in the end, He will not be denied and will have what He purposes. This is the purpose for mankind: holiness and perfection before God.

In saying we shall be without blame, Paul is not referring to those scandalous acts we have performed in the past that we shall feel sorry and guilty for when standing in His presence. Rather, the Greek word for "blameless" could probably more accurately be translated "unblemished" or "without disfigurement." Paul is not talking about transactional blame, blame for something we have done or not done, rather he is speaking of a defect that is more fundamental, structural, and personal. Paul is saying that on that day we will know no shame or guilt for who we are in ourselves and in our person, for we will be perfect and whole in every way. Certainly, such confidence is not know by anyone presently who still lives on in the flesh of this life, but the plan of God is that one day, in the resurrection, we shall be resurrected to new life, a life without blemish or defect, and to stand before Him perfect in every way. This was His plan even before sin entered the world and it is still His plan even knowing all that had gone on in the interleaving millennia. Paul writes, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'" (1 Corinthians 15:52-54) This is both our hope and our joy. This is the joy set before us that we too might endure our cross; that we too might find new life through the resurrection power as demonstrated by Jesus. What hope and comfort this should offer to all believers regardless of present circumstances or station of life. What a grand plan for all of us!

David Robison

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Every spiritual blessing - Ephesians 1:3

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3)
One of the translations for the word "blessed" is to be adorable. This verse could be read, "Adorable be the God and Father..." Paul is trying to get us to re-envision God. When we only know God through His laws and commands, then "adorable" is not often how we see Him. Because of His demanding requirements, exacting rituals, and His rigid standard of righteousness, we often view God as being harsh, austere, and impersonal. For many enslaved by religion around the world, this is the image they retain in their minds of God; a God who demands their obedience, but who does not elicit their love. However, when we know God for who He really is and come to understand the plan He has planned for us, the work He has worked for us, and the benefits with which He has benefited us, then God begins, once again, to become blessed and adorable in our sight. Our cold and impersonal obedience to God begins to be replaced by warn and open affection and love for our heavenly Father. We begin to desire and relate to our Father who is God rather than to a God who claims to be our Father,

One of the things Paul urges us to do to effect a change in our esteem and appreciation of God is to consider our new found position with God and the benefits that such a relationship accrues towards our lives. Paul says that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. This word for "bless" means to "speak well of". It speaks of the verbal blessing as well as, by extension, the blessing received when the verbal pronouncement is realized. Thus, a blessing is when one speaks well of the good qualities and praiseworthy traits they see in someone else's life. However, and even more importantly, a blessing can be used to speak and impart to someone's life the good intentions and plans that God has for them. The second part of the Greek word for "blessing" is the word "logos" and it refers to both thought, reason, and a verbal message. God blesses us when He extends his thoughts, reason, and words over our lives to create in them good things emanating from Himself. When God says to us, "You are mine!", "Your are loved!", or "Your are righteous!" His words not only comfort and cheer us by their warm greeting, but they also produce something within us; some real change and transformation, that causes the reality of those words to be birthed, nurtured, and brought to fruition in our lives.

The practice of speaking a verbal blessing over a child for his or her future was not an uncommon practice in the Scriptures. We see God blessing our first parents, "God blessed them, saying, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.'" (Genesis 1:22) We also see Abraham mistakenly blessing Issac over Esau, "he blessed him and said, '... Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine; may peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you.'" (Genesis 27:27-29) And, later on we see Jacob blessing the two sons of Joseph, "He blessed them that day, saying, 'By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, "May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!"' Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh." (Genesis 48:20-21)

One of the most important aspects of blessings that must be understood is their often prophetic nature and the need for patience and faith to receive them. In the blessings sited above, and many more in the scriptures, the blessings pronounced took years of faith, patience, and endurance to see their fulfillment. Even in this verse we are considering, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, yet much of that blessing is in the form of a promise which we have yet to receive. That's why the writer of Hebrews encourages us not to be, "sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12) It should also encourage us that, just because we don't always see the reality of the blessings of God in our lives, doesn't mean their not present. They are just as real as you or me, but merely faded away from our view, thought not from God's view for us.

Furthermore, it is important to realize that, these blessing from God, are spiritual. While God does often bless us with material things for our sustenance and enjoyment, far greater are those spiritual blessings that benefit us both here, in this life, as well as in the life to come. They are eternal blessings whose benefits start now and last for eternity. They are blessings that effect the very nature of who we are and touch us at the deepest levels of our soul. As such they don't often manifest themselves immediately but their reality is often shown over time as our life is being continually changed and perfected by the force and working of these blessings in us. Therefore we must not be too willing or quick to give up for, as Paul encouraged us "[do] not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." (Galatians 6:9)

Finally we must remember that these blessings are heavenly. This should first remind us of the source of those blessings;  that all good things have one source in our life, our Father. James reminds us that, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." (James 1:17) When we look for blessings from anywhere other than heaven, we are looking amiss. While this world has many things to offer us, they all pail in comparison to the blessings of heaven. In our need, in our wants, and even in our dreams, we should look up and seek them from our Father in heaven who is able to give us the things we need and want rather than looking for them in the world which only has disappointment to offer. In addition, we must be careful as to the things for which we are solicitous for and desire to obtain for ourselves. If we are desiring the things of this Earth, then we are desiring the wrong things. Certainly they can provide a measure to temporary pleasure and satisfaction, but it is short lived and often comes with a price. It is those blessings found in heaven that are of real and of lasting value, pleasure, and enjoyment in our lives. We must be careful when looking at others not to desire the outward things of their lives, their riches, position, and power, but to look deeper to the real condition of the soul. We must learn to desire the things that can truly satisfy us and that can truly heal and nourish our souls. These are those spiritual and heavenly blessings that really matter.

David Robison

Monday, May 23, 2016

By the will of God - Ephesians 1:1-2

Ephesus was a city within what is now modern day Turkey. In its day it was an important city of commerce as it stood on the junction of busy trading routs from many different parts of the world. It was also where Paul spent three years of his life endeavoring in his evangelistic and apostolic work. Later, during his two year imprisonment in Rome, he writes to them to remind them of the richness of the blessings that are theirs in Christ. He begins his letter by greating them in a manor common to many of his letters,
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 1:1-2)
Paul never refers to himself by a title, such as, the Apostle Paul, but always by his function: Paul, an apostle. What was important to Paul was not his position within the Church but rather the service he was call to perform on her behalf. To Paul, it was not about the praise, the accolades, or even the deference to be shown him due to his elevated status as an apostle. No, to him, it was all about the work. God had called him to serve the church through an apostolic work, and it was to this work that he committed his life and labored by the grace of God. "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." (1 Corinthians 15:10)

We live in a culture that is very particular about titles. We prefer the the acknowledgement of our position when addressed by others, such as "Pastor Bob," rather than simply "Bob." I have been to conferences where some were quite particular that the title that precedes their name on their name tags. Sometimes we even refer to such people simply by their title, such as, "Didn't pastor have a great sermon today!" or "When will pastor be back from vacation?" In both cases, we place an elevated view of titles over and against the person the title represents. Jesus warned us explicitly about titles when He said, "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven." (Matthew 23:8-9) There is nothing wrong with being a teacher, Rabbi, leader, or spiritual father to others. The problem is when we begin to identify more with the position than the work. I know someone who once confessed that they liked being a writer more than actually writing. The same can happen with titles within the church. We can become so focused on the position, and the deference and honor we expect from the position, that we neglect the actual work we were called to. I think it is time, as believers, that we dispense with all titles within the church and learn to be, as Jesus taught us, "all brothers."

Paul says he was made an apostle by the will of God. This particular Greek word demotes and active choosing rather than a passive acquiescence. It's not like, one day, God thought, "I would be nice if Paul was an apostle," rather, with determined will, thought, and activity, God both willed, purposed, and orchestrated events that, in the proper course of time, Paul would accept his calling to the work of an apostle. God has a plan for each of our lives and it is a plan that He is actively involved in. God's interest in us is not passive but it is active and working tirelessly, often unnoticed, to bring about the will of God in our lives. God purposes, plans, and brings about what His own mind conceives and, for Paul, this meant an apostolic ministry.

Paul did not come into his apostleship by regular means. He was not part of Jesus' original disciples, he was not with the disciples in the upper room when the Holy Spirit was released, he was not part of the established churches whom he was hell-bent on destroying, and he had not received any sanction, ordination, or commission from any church, bishop, presbytery, or apostle. Paul's calling was quite extraordinary and quite different from any that resided within the church at that time.

One of the interesting lessons of history is that we are a people who like order and, while many times our present order was the result of irregular actions, such as revolution, revelation, or reformation, we often forget our turbulent past in our love of our present peace and order. That is why, even today, when God brings forth people in an irregular order, yet still according to His will, we don't often know what to do with them or how to make them "fit in" to the regular order of things. For example, if God were to suddenly raise up a Paul within our midst, what would we do with him? We already have a pastor, we already have elders, we already have people who teach Sunday school; all who have come in the regular way. So what do we do with one who is so irregular? Often times our only resort it to push them out to find their own ministry where they can exercise their gifts without compromising our present peace and order. However, in doing so, we often rob ourselves of what God Himself has placed within our midst. In all our order, we need to make room for the irregular order of God. We need to become like Ananias who reached out to Paul and welcomed him into fellowship. We need to be like Barnabas who sacrificed his own ministry to partner with Paul, taking on an inferior role to Paul, to both nurture, strengthen, and help Paul in his ministry. And we need to be like the churches he ministered to who saw in Paul a gift and a blessing from God. God's will and purpose are not always executed according to our own will and purpose, but if we learn to recognize it and embrace it, we will often find and extraordinary blessing that is not often found in the ordinary and regular.

David Robison

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Koran - In conclusion

Our journey through the Koran has taken us eight months and has covered one hundred and thirty six posts. I began this project to better understand Islam, its teachings and its followers. I also wanted to see for myself what the Koran had to say and to make my own determination pertaining to Muhammad and his Koran. Through this series we have looked at the similarities between Islam and Christianity, considered the historical context through which this new religion was born, examined the historical record as contained in the Koran, and finally compared the teachings of Muhammad with the teachings of Moses, Jesus, and His disciples. Still the fundamental questions remain: Was Muhammad a prophet of God and is the Koran the inerrant, word-for-word copy, of the divine book of God?

To answer best this question, let's first consider who Muhammad was and who he claimed to be, Muhammad claimed to be a prophet in the likes of, and in succession to, Moses and Jesus. However, and more importantly, he claimed to be a messenger, and apostle, bring a new revelation, a new message from God, and a commission to establish anew the pure religion of God to mankind. As an apostle, he demanded strict and absolute obedience and fealty to himself and his message, but should we accept his claim of being a divine messenger from God?

Historically, the apostles and messengers who  brought with them a new message and a new religion from God did so with signs and wonders to validate and succor their claim of their divine mission. Moses performed many miracles before Pharaoh and the Israelites. Jesus also performed miracles, even the raising of the dead, for which He challenged the people, "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." (John 10:37-38) Finally, the Apostles of Jesus also demonstrated the reality of their message with signs and wonders of which it was written, "After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will." (Hebrews 2:3-4) However, Muhammad gives us no miracles, no signs and wonders, no evidence of his apostleship other than his own word, nor is there anyone who can corroborate that God actually spoke to Muhammad as those did who heard God speak to Jesus. "So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, 'An angel has spoken to Him.' Jesus answered and said, 'This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.'" (John 12:29-30)

Similarly, we must consider the nature of Muhammad including his morality and inclination for war. Muhammad was a man of an intense sexual appetite. He has fourteen wives including an unspecified number of concubine and slaves at his disposal, including one wife who was only nine when he married her. While Muhammad was not the first to have multiple wives, he was the first to use his prophetic claims to justify his many wives and to rebuke the jealousy of one wife who complained against his preference for another. He was also the first in the Abrahamic stream to claim a direct word of God justifying and pronouncing polygamy both normal, permitted, and divinely inspired. How different is Muhammad's idea of marriage from that of the first marriage instituted by God. "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth'" (Genesis 1:27-28)

Muhammad, while starting out as a reformer, ended up being a man of war, a man of conquest, and the sheder of much blood. His method of evangelism and the conversion of the infidels was through force, compulsion, and open war. Again, Islam is not the only religion to resort to force to convert the unbelievers, but it is unique among other Abrahamic religion to claim God's sanction on such methods. While Israel did use warfare to claim their inheritance from God, they claimed no commission from God to concur the world and the surrounding nations to the faith of their God and to force them into compliance to their religion and laws. How different was Muhammad's motives and methods to those of Jesus when, in response to a city of Samaria refusing Him entrance and His disciples request for His permission to call down fire upon them, He said simply, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke 9:55-56)

Finally, we must consider the Muhammad's greatest contribution to Islam, the Koran. Muhammad's claim of being a prophet rises and falls upon our estimation of the Koran and whether or not we believe it to be the word of God or merely the words and imaginations of Muhammad. In judging the Koran, we first must judge it based on what it has to say about itself. The Koran claims to be the continuation of the revelations given in the Law and the Gospel. It claims to both conform and confirm what was written before. This gives us a simple test as to whether or not the Koran was divinely inspired of or mere human origin. Any deviation or contradiction of the Law or Gospel is enough to condemn the Koran as a mere human production, as not being the very word of God, and as proving that Muhammad was not the prophet as he claimed to be. In judging the Koran, we have looked at the historical accounts recorded in the Koran and the various doctrines it teaches. In almost every case where the Koran recounts a historical event that is also recorded in the Jewish scriptures, the Koran gets it wrong! Similarly, there are many doctrinal teachings that differ and contradict the teachings of Moses, Jesus, and His apostles. Clearly the Koran fails at its own claims to be consistent and conformant to the ancient Jewish and Christian writings. Clearly, based on this evidence alone, we can conclude that the Koran is not the word of God and Muhammad was not the prophet of God he claimed to be.

This is my final conclusion of the evidence provided against the claims of Muhammad and the Koran. I hope you have enjoyed this series and have learned something that will help you better understand the world we live in, the Muslim religion, and the Muslim people themselves. I would very much enjoy hearing your thoughts and comments on this matter as well. Feel free to comment here, like my Facebook page and comment there, or e-mail me directly.

David Robison

Friday, May 20, 2016

Doctrine - The paradise of Islam - The Houris

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Probably the most interesting creatures of all of Paradise are the Houris. The Houris are beautiful maidens created for the pleasure of men. Rodwell simply translates them as virgins with large dark eyes! Muhammad writes that, as we sit and enjoy the pleasures of our desires, there will not only be beautiful young youths serving us, but also beautiful virgins to attend to our more sensual and intimate needs.
"with them wide-eyed [large-eyed] maidens [with modest] restraining their glances as if they were hidden pearls [sheltered egg]." (Koran 37:46)
"and for the godfearing is a fair resort, Gardens of Eden, whereof the gates [portals] are open to them, wherein they recline, and wherein they call for fruits abundant, and sweet potions [drink], and with them [shall be virgins] maidens restraining their glances [modest retiring glances] of equal age [of their own age]." (Koran 38:50-52)
These women are not only provided for our visual enjoyment, but are also to become our spouses (assuming your a man, not sure what women get).
"Surely the godfearing [pious] shall be in a station secure among gardens and fountains, robed in silk and brocade [rich robes], set face to face [facing one another]. Even so; and We shall espouse them to wide-eyed houris [the virgins with large dark eyes], therein calling for every [kind of] fruit, secure." (Koran 44:51-55)
"Reclining upon couches ranged in rows; and We shall espouse [wed] them to wide-eyed houris [damsels with large dark eyes]." (Koran 52:20)
As to their appearance, we have already seen how they will be created as the same age as we are (Koran 38:52). The Koran further describes them as the most beautiful of all women.
"lovely as rubies [jacynths], beautiful as coral [pearls]" (Koran 55:58)
They are also described as being virgins, untouched by men or Djinn.
"therein maidens good and comely [in each, the fair, and beautiful ones]... houris [with large dark eyeballs], cloistered [kept close] in cool pavilions... untouched before them by any man or jinn... [their spouses] reclining upon [soft] green cushions and lovely druggets [carpets]" (Koran 55:70-76)
Notice also the intimation of this description: They are hidden away in a cool and inviting places, reclining on, and surrounded by, sensual furnishings, waiting for their spouses. Pure, perfect, spouses, waiting to spend their virginity upon those whom Allah has blessed. 

As to their feminine features, Muhammad simply describes them as "swelling".
"Surely for the godfearing awaits a place of security [a blissful abode], [enclosed] gardens and vineyards and maidens with swelling breasts, like of age [their peers in age], and a cup overflowing." (Koran 78:31-34)
What is most amassing is that, these Houris, are created for this very purpose; to meet and serve the sensual and sexual desires of those who were chosen to inherit the resurrected life in the Paradise of God! They were created for the sexual pleasures of resurrected men and to meet their every need, whim, and fantasy.
"The Companions of the Right (O Companions of the Right [Oh! How happy shall be the people of the right hand]!) mid thornless lote-trees [sidrahs] and serried acacias [talh tree clad with fruit], and spreading shade and outpoured flowing] waters, and fruits abounding unfailing, unforbidden, and upraised [lofty] couches. Perfectly [of a rear creation] We formed them [created the Houris], perfect, and We made them spotless [ever] virgins, chastely amorous [dear to their spouse], like of age [of equal age] for the Companions [people] of the Right [hand]." (Koran 56:26-38)
You can see the not so subtle rebuke on men's current wives and spouses. These women are created by Allah to be perfect, spotless virgins, and deeply in love with their new husbands. How can any woman or wife upon Earth compete with such perfect women? How could any man or husband not long more so for such heavenly women than he does for his present wife, knowing she is inferior and can never be as good, as beautiful, or as loving as the wife awaiting him in heaven. Is she not just a starter wife or a practice wife until Allah gives him that perfect spouse waiting for him in Paradise? 

I ask you, are these the words of a divine prophet of God, or the words of one fully overcome by sexual appetites and desires? Is all we have to look forward to in Paradise is having great sex? Is that all they have? Did Jesus come to save us for nothing more than perfect virginal spouses created for us in Paradise? 

Jesus told us, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2-3) Jesus saved us, not that we might one day enjoy the company and services of the Houris, but that one day we might be with Him in heaven for all eternity. He saved us that we might enjoy the unbroken presence and fellowship of God as we stand before Him for ever more. How much greater shall this pleasure be over and against any sensual, physical, or sexual pleasure that Muhammad can offer us in his Paradise? How much inferior is Muhammad's paradise to God's heaven and our eternal citizenship there? For me, I choose heaven!

David Robison

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Doctrine - The paradise of Islam - Perfect spouses

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Sensual pleasures Muhammad promises in Paradise are not limited to food, drink, an other material wants and pleasures, but is also extended to the pleasures of human flesh. In that day there will be a vast hoard of beautiful youths serving the elect of God.
"And We shall succour them with fruits [in abundance] and flesh such as they desire while they pass therein a cup one to another wherein is no idle talk [no light discource], no cause of sin, and there go round them [beautiful] youths, their own, as if they were hidden [imbedded] pearls." (Koran 52:22-24)
"Immortal [aye-blooming] youths shall go about them; when thou seest them, thou supposest them scattered pearls, when thou seest them [this] then thou seest bliss [delights] and a great [vast] kingdom. Upon them shall be green garments of silk and [rich] brocade; they are adorned with bracelets of silver, and their Lord shall give them to drink a pure draught." (Koran 76:19-21)
It is a very odd picture in deed; that God would create and entire race of youth to serve us night and day for all eternity, and that He would create them "beautiful" and of such an appearance as to engender bliss and the sense of a vast kingdom of which we are to be a part of. Their purpose is not just to server, but to serve as a focal point of beauty to arouse pleasure in the minds of those whom they serve. This is very odd when we consider the scripture where David says, "You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." (Psalms 16:11) True pleasure in our life comes from the Lord and are dispensed from His right hand. They do not come from the beauty of a race of youth who parade themselves around as they move to serve us.

More than this, Muhammad promises that, in Paradise, we shall dwell with our spouses.
"See, the inhabitants [inmates] of Paradise today are busy in their rejoicing [joyous in their employ], they and – their spouses, reclining upon [bridal] couches in the shade; therein they have fruits, and they have all that they call for [whatever they require]." (Koran 36:55-57)
However, these are not our spouses from Earth. These are perfect spouses, created for us, that we might enjoy them throughout eternity,
"whensoever they are provided with fruits therefrom they shall say, 'This is that wherewithal we were provided before'; that they shall be given in perfect semblance; and there for them shall be spouses purified [of perfect purity]; therein they shall dwell forever." (Koran 2:23)
"And those that believe, and do deeds of righteousness, them We shall admit to gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein dwelling forever and ever; therein for them shall be spouses purified [wives of stainless purity], and We shall admit them to a shelter of plenteous shade." (Koran 4:60)
In Paradise we will not have our wives from below, but we will be wedded to perfect wives; wives of unquestionable purity and fully surrendered. It is unclear what women will receive, but men will get to trade in their old and imperfect spouse for that model and perfect wife they truly desire and deserve. How demeaning to women and to marriage as a holy institution! This is a slap in the face to every woman and wife and serves only to sow into the minds of men discontent for their present wives, especially in the light of such womanly perfection that awaits them in heaven. Such teaching cast all women as imperfect, flawed, and something less than desirable. So far beneath are they from what their men really deserve that God will have to create perfect souses for their husbands in Paradise to reward them for their service to God. To Muhammad, the Koran, and Allah, women are at best, second rate citizens; women to be replaced by something better when their men get to paradise.

Even more so than this, as we have previously spoken, Muhammad failed to understand the words of Jesus when He said, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:30) In heaven there will be no marriage and no being wed to some perfect race of women. There our focus will not be on each other, on physical delights, and sensual lusts, but our focus will be on our Lord and God who loves us with an inexhaustible love.

David Robison

Monday, May 16, 2016

Doctrine - The paradise of Islam - Gardens of Eden

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Of all the descriptions the Koran offers of Paradise, the most common is that of a desert oasis.
"God has promised the believers, men and women, gardens underneath which rivers flow, forever therein to dwell, and goodly dwelling-places in the Gardens of Eden" (Koran 9:73)
"Blessed be He who, if He will [pleases], shall assign to them better than that -- gardens underneath which rivers flow, and he shall assign to thee palaces [pavilions]." (Koran 25:11)
For those living in arid and desert places, such an image would be inviting, refreshing, and familiar to them. It would be easy for a desert dweller to see such an oasis as being the very paradise of heaven. Additionally, the Koran provides more detailed pictures of Paradise including our participation in its enjoyments. Here are some of the more interesting ways the Koran depicts the blessing of Paradise.
"and they high-honoured in the Gardens of Bliss [delight] upon couches, set face to face, a cup from a spring [fountain] being passed round to them," (Koran 37:41-44)
The Koran depicts paradise with the elect reclining on couches, facing each others, and sharing a drink from the rivers and springs which richly supply it. However, John describes heaven in this manner, "There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads." (Revelation 22:3-4) Muhammad promises that in Paradise we will see each other, face-to-face, while the scriptures promise that, in heaven, we will see Jesus face-to-face. Paul similarly makes this promise, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12) How much greater is the Christian promise than the promise of Muhammad. As much as I like my brother's and sister's in Christ, on that day it is not their face I wish to see, but Jesus'. My life is spent here on this Earth, not that I might be reunited with my loved ones, which I will be, but that I might finally, in the resurrection, be able to behold God's face plainly, clearly, and intently. For me, the goal of my life if God, not merely the eternal fellowship of mankind. Let them have their dinner party in Paradise, I want to stand before the very presence of God!
"Gardens of Eden they shall enter, underneath [their shades] which rivers flow, wherein they shall have all they will [all they wish]." (Koran 16:33)
"Therein they shall have whatever [all] they will [desire]; and with Us there is yet more [and ours will it be to augment their bliss]." (Koran 50:34)
"whatsoever they will [desire] they shall have with their Lord; that is the great bounty [boon]." (Koran 42:21)
Like everyone else, I am sure that I am able to desire many great things, but what I've learned of desires, especially those for material things, is that the joy of their satisfaction is often short lived. Yes, in Paradise, we might be satiated with every sort of desirable food, drink, and pleasure, but then what? Is that all they have to offer? The desire of things, even great things, will in the end always leave us empty again. Paul said that he had "the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better." (Philippians 1:23) The truth is that, in that day, I will have had enough of the desires and pleasures of the flesh. What I truly desire is not more good things, but one good person, and that being Jesus. My desire is not to finally make it where I can have all my wishes and dreams come true, but that it might be granted to me to spend the rest of eternity enjoying the presence and fellowship of Christ. When compared with the unfathomable riches and depths of Christ, what can mere pleasures have to offer?
"Enter Paradise, you and your wives, walking with joy [delighted]!' There shall be passed around them platters of gold, and cups, therein being whatever the souls desire, and the eyes delight in." (Koran 43:70-71)
Muhammad obviously did not understand the true nature of lust. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." (1 John 2:16) It is this same lust of the eyes that led, in part, to Eve's sin. "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate." (Genesis 3:6) Why then should we expect the desire of our eyes to be sanctioned in Paradise? Such desires, and our need to satisfy them, led to the downfall of all mankind. In that day, it will not be the desires of our eyes and souls we will be listening to but rather our spirits who long after God. It is His presence that will fill our every desire and satisfy our every care.

Furthermore, Muhammad misunderstood the institution of marriage as it pertains to our life to come. When the Jews tried to trap Jesus by asking him to comment on a hypothetical case regarding a woman who married all seven brothers in succession, Jesus answered them saying, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection." (Luke 20:34-36) Muhammad was wrong in his view that in Paradise we would remain married or that there would be marriage and/or sex.
"those -- theirs shall be Gardens of Eden, underneath which rivers flow; therein they shall be adorned with bracelets of gold, and they shall be robed in green garments of silk and [rich] brocade, therein reclining upon couches [thrones] -- O, how excellent [blissful] a reward! And O, how fair a resting-place [pleasant couch]!" (Koran 18:30)
"Gardens of Eden they shall enter; therein they shall be adorned with bracelets of gold and with pearls, and their apparel there shall be of silk." (Koran 35:30)
"reclining upon couches lined with brocade" (Koran 55:54)
The Koran describes Paradise as a place of sensual pleasures; the gold, the silk, the reclining. All these things are designed to lure and entice the flesh. They appeal to the baser nature of us rather than to our reason or our spirit. Paul warns is of those "whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things." (Philippians 3:19 NKJV) How could God, who came to free us from our baser desires and the lust of the flesh, then turn around and release us to them once again in Paradise? Having "escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust" (2 Peter 1:4) how shall we then find ourselves once again enslaved by it in the resurrection? How can we even begin to consider eternal subjugation to lust and desire a blessing and something to live for in the life to come? Having been then raise from the dead, should we once again be debased and reduced to mere desires and lust all over again? I think not, for I believe in better things for us on that day more than just a mere satisfaction of the desires we had while living.

David Robison

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Doctrine - The paradise of Islam - The first shall be first

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Muhammad assigns first place in Paradise to those who had first place on Earth, among whom, he was one.
"and the Outstrippers [they who were foremost on the earth]: the Outstrippers [foremost still] those are they brought nigh the Throne [to God], in the Gardens of Delight (a throng of the ancients [former] and how few of the later folk [latter generations]) upon close-wrought [inwrought] couches reclining upon them, set face to face, immortal [Aye-blooming] youths going round about them with goblets, and ewers, and a cup [of flowing wine] from a spring (no brows throbbing [from it], no intoxication [nor fails the senses]) and such fruits as they shall choose [please them best], and such flesh of fowl as they desire, and wide-eyed houris [with large dark eyes] as the likeness of hidden pearls [pearls hidden in their shell], a recompense for that they laboured." (Koran 56:10-23)
In Muhammad's view, those who were first on Earth will be first in Paradise, those who were mighty on Earth will be might in Paradise, and those who were leaders on Earth will be leaders in Paradise. However, this runs counter to what Jesus and His disciples taught. Consider what Jesus said concerning John the Baptist. "Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:11) The issue is not whether or not John was a great man, but simply that, even the least of those in the Kingdom of God are greater then the greatest of men ever born on the Earth. What matters. both now and in the life to come, is not how great we are in this world, but our standing in the Kingdom of God. This is why Jesus taught, "And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last." (Luke 13:30) Contrary to what Muhammad taught, there will be many on that day who were among the outtrippers and the foremost upon the Earth who will find themselves last in Heaven, God even selecting those who are lowly and base to overthrow those who are mighty and strong. "For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) Our present condition among men does not determine our future standing in Heaven, rather it is our relationship to God, to His Son, and to His people that determines our future status in Heaven.

David Robison

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Doctrine - The paradise of Islam - The hospitality of God

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
For those who have lived a surrendered life, kept the laws of Islam, and for whom Allah wills, theirs is the reward of eternity in Paradise. However, Muhammad's idea of Paradise is quite different from the Christian's view of Paradise. Central to the Islamic doctrine of Paradise is the idea of the hospitality of God.
"But those who fear their Lord -- for them shall be gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein dwelling forever -- a hospitality God Himself offers [their reception with God]; and that which is with God is better for the pious." (Koran 3:197)
"therein you shall have all that your souls desire, all that you call for, as hospitality from One All-forgiving [Gracious], One All-compassionate [Merciful One]." (Koran 41:31-32)
Paradise is a place where God waits on us and entertains us, providing us with everything we desire and wish for. All out dreams, all our desires, all our wished will there be provided for us by God as His invited guests. Nothing shall be refused us; all is waiting for us there. How different from what the Christian scriptures teach. John, in describing the great multitude he saw in heaven, records a conversation between himself and one of the heavenly elders, "'These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?' I said to him, 'My lord, you know.' And he said to me, 'These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.'" (Revelation 7:13-15) One could argue that this is not the fate of all humans who make it to heaven, but there appears no other picture of life in heaven other than this. In all descriptions of heaven, people are assembled around the thrown, giving praise and honor to God; not caring for themselves but enraptured by the very presence of God. Heaven is not a place to be entertained by God, but a place to eternally worship and adore Him. It's a place for us to worship and serve God not to be served and entertained by God.

Furthermore, the treasures we will find in heaven are not the hospitable provisions of God, but the fruits and rewards of our labors here on Earth. Jesus told the rich young ruler, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21) And He counseled all people saying, "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12:33-34) Heaven is not a place to get what we never had here on Earth, but a place to enjoy the rewards of our godly labors upon the Earth. Not hospitality, but rewards.

Another significant difference between the Christian and Islamic teaching of Paradise is the idea of Paradise itself.
"And those that believe, and do deeds of righteousness -- those are the inhabitants of Paradise; there they shall dwell forever.'" (Koran 2:76)
Muhammad always spoke of Paradise as being our future eternal home while Jesus always spoke of heaven as being our eternal dwelling place. Jesus always spoke of Heaven as being the place where God, His father, lived, and, speaking of that place, Jesus said, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2-3) One could say that the difference between Heaven and Paradise is merely a matter of words. However, in those words there is expressed a significant difference. Paradise is a place of bliss while heaven is the dwelling place of God. Muhammad's Paradise is a place of getting our every needs and wants satisfied while the Christian Heaven is a place were we get to draw near to God, to ever be in Hi presence, and to ever serve and worship Him throughout all eternity. In Islam you get your desires meet, but in Christianity you get God. How much greater is the eternal hope of Christians over the hope of satiated desires of Muslims!

David Robison

Friday, May 13, 2016

Doctrine - The paradise of Islam - Hell

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Hell is a reality and, according to Muhammad, a place where many, if not most, will spend their eternity. Muhammad writes that Hell will be filled with a multitude of men and women who lived unsurrendered to God during their lives.
"I shall assuredly fill Gehenna [hell] with jinn and men all together." (Koran 11:120)
According to the Koran, God is just as committed to filling Hell with the condemned as He is in filling heaven with the redeemed. In this, Muhammad greatly misjudged the heart of God who "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4) So great is God's desire to empty Hell and to fill Heaven that He sent His own Son to save mankind from an eternity of banishment from God and torment in Hell. God has done everything possible for our salvation. He sent His word to teach us and He sent His Son to redeem us. All has been done and there remains nothing for us to do but to accept His work on our behalf and believe in Him. If anyone makes it to Hell, it is by His own choosing for God has made a way.

In describing Hell, Muhammad describe both levels of Hell and different areas of confinement.
"Surely the hypocrites will be in the lowest reach of the Fire; thou wilt not find for them any helper;" (Koran 4:144)
"Gehenna [hell] shall be their promised land all together. Seven gates [Portals] it has, and unto each gate a set portion [band] of them belongs" (Koran 15:43-44)
The Christian scriptures do not describe any such levels or differing areas of Hell. The only scripture that come close is the story of Lazarus and the rich man. "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' But Abraham said... 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'" (Luke 16:23-26) However, this verse speak specifically of Hades rather than Hell. While the original King James version of the scriptures translated both places as simply "hell", the christian scriptures are consistent in describing two different places: Hades, the place of departed spirits, and Hell, the place of eternal punishment. Currently, no on is in hell for its future inhabitants are awaiting their final judgment before being dispatched there. Speaking of the final judgment, John writes, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:13-15) Apparently, Muhammad did not understand this difference and confused Hell and Hades.

Muhammad describes Hell as not only a place of judgment, but also a pace of inexplicable cruelty and torture. Here are some of the cruelties that await those appointed to Hell.
"Those who conceal [hide] what of the Book [Scriptures] God has sent down on them, and sell [barter] it for a little price --they shall eat naught but the Fire in their bellies; God shall not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection neither purify [assoil] them; there awaits them a painful chastisement [grievous torment]." (Koran 2:169)
Those who are assigned to Hell will experience the total abandonment by God. God will not speak to them, He will not hear them, He will not care for them, and He will not acknowledge them. Theirs will be an existence alone with no one to care for their condition.
"‘his shall be a life of narrowness, and on the Resurrection Day We shall raise him blind.' He shall say, 'O my Lord, why hast thou raised [assembled] me blind, and I was wont [endowed] to see?'" (Koran 20:124-125)
It is uncertain why God would raise them up blind. J.M. Rodwell suggests that their blindness is due to the "the intensity of the light" (The Koran, J.M. Rodwell, footnote 20.28) shining around God. Either way, they will experience the terror of things happening around them and to them that they are unable to perceive or anticipate.
"Lo, the Tree of Ez-Zakkoum is the food of the guilty [sinner], like molten copper [dregs of oil], bubbling in the belly as boiling water bubbles [scalding water]. 'Take [seize] him, and thrust [drag] him into the midst of Hell [mid-fire], then pour over his head the chastisement [tormenting] of boiling water!'" (Koran 44:43-48)
"When the fetters [collars] and chains are on their necks, and they are dragged into the boiling water [Hell], then into the Fire they are poured [shall be burned]" (Koran 40:73)
Muhammad describes them being shackled and dragged against their will into Hell. However, the Christian scriptures never gives such a picture. God simply commands men to Hell and they obey. "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels... These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:41, 46) No chains and no dragging, just commanding and obeying.
"Faces on that day humbled [downcast], labouring [travailing], toilworn [worn], roasting [burnt] at a scorching fire, watered [made to drink] at a [fiercely] boiling fountain, no food for them but cactus thorn [fruit of Darih] unfattening, unappeasing hunger." (Koran 88:2-7)
Muhammad describes the torment of insatiable hunger. However, it is hard to understand how a person's soul might be hungry and, even of they were cast into Hell after the resurrection of their bodies, it is unclear if those bodies are capable of hunger. Paul writes of food and the stomach, "Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them." (1 Corinthians 6:13)
"there shall be a hospitality [his entertainment shall be] of boiling water and the roasting in Hell." (Koran 56:94)
"All this; but for the insolent awaits an ill resort [wretched home], Gehenna [hell], wherein they are roasted [burned] -- an evil cradling [a wretched bed]! All this; so let them taste it -- boiling water and pus [gore], and other torments of the like kind coupled together." (Koran 38:55-58)
Hell will be a place of incredible burning and the roasting of the flesh and for drink they will have boiling water and molten copper. Such fire and boiling as none can escape.
"Surely We have prepared for the evildoers [offenders] a fire, whose pavilion [smoke] encompasses [enwrap] them; if they call for succor [implore help], they will be succoured [helped] with water like molten copper [brass], that shall scald their faces -- how evil [wretched] a potion [drink], and how evil [unhappy] a resting-place [couch]!" (Koran 18:28)
The torments of Hell will be merciless. In fact, should one complain and beg for help. their torment will only be increased! God will torture them until there is no more strength for them to resist.
"As for the unbelievers, for them garments of fire shall, be cut [out], and there shall be poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatsoever is in their bellies [bowels] and their skins shall be melted [dissolved]; for them wait hooked iron rods [maces of iron]; as often as they desire in their anguish to come forth from it, they shall be restored into it, and: 'Taste the chastisement [torment] of the burning!'" (Koran 22:20-21)
The cruelty of Hell will be unrelenting. A person's pain will be heightened by their desire to escape the punishment only to find it renewed and enduring. In the end they will be stripped of all hope and desire for a happier future.
"Behold, Gehenna [Hell] has become an ambush [a place of snares], for the insolent a resort [the home of transgressors], therein to tarry for ages, tasting therein neither coolness nor any drink save boiling water and pus [running sores] for a suitable recompense." (Koran 78:21-26)
Finally, the judgments of Hell will be eternal. It is hard for us to think of eternity, of time without end, but such is the fearful state of those who will find themselves there.

This is the picture of Hell that Muhammad paints and the image of his God who intends on filling it with men and Djinn alike, but is God really so cruel towards mankind, towards the work of His own hands? In my opinion, Muhammad's image of God too often reflects the image of Muhammad. Muhammad's God is more man-like than god-like. Muhammad could not execute judgment without cruelty so he imagines God to be the same. God is just and His judgment is right and true. However, in His judgment there is no darkness of cruelty, revenge, retaliation, or hatred. God's emotions are pure and even in judgment He is full of light. Muhammad could not see God as being anything more than he was while, in fact, God is so much higher, so much greater, and so much more loving than we are or ever will be. God is just, but He is not cruel. That He has left for men to be, men like Muhammad.

David Robison