How many names does God have?

                I don't know the exact number of ways that the Bible refers to God, but there's I think somewhere around 26, in reference just to God the Father.   God, God Almighty, Lord, Lord of Hosts, Provider, Creator, etc. All of those are significant in Hebrew because they sound more like names rather than just titles.  Jesus also has like 20-30 names. Jesus, Lord, Christ, Lamb of God, Prince of Peace, King of Kings, etc.  The Holy Spirit has a bunch too. Counselor, Comforter, Advocate, Baptizer, Spirit of Truth, Seven-fold Spirit, etc.


Why does God love us?

                That's really up to God to answer, not me, but one thing is for sure: God doesn't love us because we are loveable. In fact, we're really not. Romans 3:10-12 is a pretty straight declaration of how every individual human being's heart is turned away from God, so God's love isn't a response to ours; rather, our love is a response to God's (1 John 4:19).
                What it really comes down to is that God's essential nature includes love, and He sovereignly chose to express that toward men, despite their unworthiness. There is no "because" answer to the question since the reason is not predicated on any requisite condition. God's love for us is a cause, not an effect.


Why is it unfair for God to forgive people easily? Can God forgive easily? How do we know if we are forgiven by God?

                God can either forgive our sins for free, or God can forgive our sins by paying for them.  If God did the former, He compromises His goodness and justice, since He lets sinners get away with sin without recompense. That means God is not a perfectly good, righteous, just, or holy God. He's a God who tolerates, enables, and even encourages sin by not punishing it.  But that is not the case. God certainly is good, righteous, just, and holy. Because of that, He chose to pay for our sin. The wages of it is death (Romans 6:23), and so He had to have someone who was without sin to die in our place. That someone would also have to be of sufficient worth to purchase not just one sinner's ransom, but all sinners. The only satisfactory sacrifice, then, would be Himself--one of divine nature, apart from sin, of infinite worth. That's why God sent His Son to die for us.

                We ask for and expect and demand easy dismissal of our sins. But God doesn't cheapen His goodness for anyone. Instead He demonstrates His boundless love for us in paying the expensive price of sacrificing His Son. Then you know that His love for you is not cheap or flippant or light. It's of such worth that there will never be a reason to doubt His care and sincerity for you, and so His instruction is that much more reliable in intention and quality.  You know you're forgiven by God if you understand the truth of His sacrifice on your behalf, abandon your sin, and place your trust in Him and His instruction to lead you in righteousness--knowing that His righteousness will eternally satisfy you more than whatever this life or world can offer.


Does God love everyone, including those that don't believe?

                Yes.  John 3:16 - God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His Son.  Romans 5:8 - God demonstrates His own love for us in this: WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS (unbelieving sinners!), Christ died for us.  Matthew 5:44-45 - God's love for His enemies is demonstrated in His continual provision of general grace to them as well as to His own people.

                Don't get confused though: while God loves everyone, that doesn't mean everyone can be excused of their sin. Only those who repent and believe--who turn from their own lordship and pursue Christ's lordship--can apply the sacrifice of Jesus' righteous death on the cross to their own sinful wages, thereby having their penalty paid and their sins forgiven. This solution, in love, is offered by God to all, but He won't mind-control anyone to force them to accept it. That is decided in the heart of every person--being responsible for his/her own decision--by the power of the Holy Spirit.


If God gives gifts, does He also give weaknesses?

                "Gifts" is an English rendering, more commonly referred to as "spiritual gifts."  The actual Greek word is CHARIS ("grace") or CHARISMATA ("graces") in the plural. It really just means "undeserved good thing(s)."  God gives undeserved good things to us. That doesn't mean He gives undeserved bad things to us. One does not entail the other.

                But, removing the first part of the question, when we ask if God gives weaknesses, there's something to think about. God is the Creator of everyone and everything. For a person who is born with a physical "weakness" such as blindness, we're confronted with that question of whether God wanted him to be blind or not.  John 9:3 presents a scenario where there is a man who was born blind. Jesus is asked the question about whether the blindness was a punishment (by God) for a sin the parents may have committed before the man was born or a sin the blind man committed in his life which was being punished before he committed it. Jesus' answer says dispels such thought, saying that nobody's sin caused the man's blindness.  Instead, Jesus says that something was meant to be done here for greater good, that is, that God's work would be put on display in the man. So Jesus heals him, and this serves to rebuke the Pharisees and bring the man to saving faith in the Lord (read vv24-38 to see the incredible conversion of the man). 

                Looking at that, there is evidence to say that God permits certain difficulties and "weaknesses" in our lives in order to bring us to faith and convict the world around us by the testimony of His work in our lives. James 1:2-4 tells us that trials produce perseverance and maturity and wisdom. Hebrews 12:3-11 says God disciplines and trains His children to greater holiness.
All of that point us to knowing that God gives us only what makes us stronger. He is not the source of temptation (James 1:13), but only of those things that are good for us (James 1:17-18).


Why is jealousy bad if God is a jealous God?

                "Jealous" is actually the same exact word as "zealous." The two words in English have distinct meanings, but in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, they are exactly the same. The reason I bring that up is because one side is understood as a negative motive, while the other is usually positive.

                We are jealous often for selfish reasons. For instance, if my friend got a new car and made more money then me and I felt jealous, that comes from a spirit of entitlement and discontent with my own circumstances. It destroys my gratitude and satisfaction with the blessings in my own life, and puts my trust and hope into material wealth. That kind of jealousy is not good at all. It's wanting what does not belong to us.  If, however, my wife began showing interest and affection for another man, it would be well within my right to feel jealousy. Her affections ought to belong to me, and my affections ought to belong to her--exclusively, entirely, and equally. That jealousy is godly. It's wanting what does belong to us.

                From God's angle, He is jealous for His people's worship (Exodus 20:5). This is a good and godly jealousy. It's zeal. God deserves our worship, and so it's well within His right. To be denied our worship, despite the gift of life and health and material provisions that He has showered on us, is certainly something He deserves and should have back. There is no sin in His jealousy because He is not desiring something He does not deserve.


Is God stubborn?

                It depends on our definition of "stubborn," since the term is sometimes used with a flexible meaning.   If you mean "stubborn" as in "resistant to change," then yes, God is stubborn. There are moments where God can reconsider a course of action, such as when Moses asked God not to destroy Israel for their idolatry with the golden calf (Exodus 32:8-14), or whether to accompany Israel on their journey to the Promised Land (33:4-33:17). But His purpose is unchanging (Hebrews 6:17). His character does not change (James 1:17). He always has the same values and goals, but His methods of accomplishing them are flexible and can accommodate to the prayers and requests of His people.

                If you mean the more popular use of "stubborn" as in "will not change His mind even when He's proven wrong," then the question is flawed. When is God wrong? Because He is the defining standard as to what's "right," the question collapses on itself even hypothetically by asking when the Right One is wrong. At that point He is not omniscient or omnipotent, which means He is not the Almighty One (El Shaddai), which means He is not God.  

                I had a conversation with a good friend (Pastor Mike Suh) about this recently, and Mike pointed out that God is incredibly stubborn for choosing to save people. I asked him to explain, and Mike said that people are fickle with God and rebel against Him and ignore Him and betray Him and start to follow and then lose interest and consistently forget Him over and over again. And through all of that, God refuses to stop loving them. In that way, God is stubborn.  It's a decorative use of the term, but one that I appreciated very much.


Can God be surprised?

                Kind of.  Jesus could be surprised (Matthew 8:10).   It's really hard to know what it's like to be omniscient, and also to be astonished or surprised.  Have you ever watched a movie where there's a sudden scary moment that you know is going to happen, and yet it still startles you every time? I'm guessing that maybe it's something like that.  Every time God is astonished or surprised at something, it is an extreme act of faith or rebellion, but it never thwarts His plan.


Does God literally forget our sins or does He merely choose not to hold them against us?

                To state the obvious: God is not an idiot. He doesn't forget things--ever. If He did, we would know of things that He doesn't (since we haven't forgotten our sins), and that would make us smarter than Him. Besides, if He forgot your sins, He'd probably sit there wondering why He can't seem to figure out what you were doing during so many different times of your life. That'd be weird, don't you think?
                When the Bible says God has forgotten sin (like in Job 11:6 or Isaiah 65:16) that speaks more of God's decision not to hold those sins against us any longer; it doesn't say that God has amnesia.
                Our sins were never really erased. They were punished. It's just that WE aren't the ones that suffer the punishment: Christ did. He died for our sins, and God knew exactly each and every one that He died for. If judgment were to be held against us, it's not that we would have perfect records before him. Rather, it's that He would not hold our sins against us because they've already been paid for, so He won't punish us for them again if Christ was already punished on our behalf.


Does God sing?

                If you actually look at Zephaniah 3:17, you'll see that God said He would sing over His people.  It's probably more expressive than literal, especially since God is not a physical creature with vocal chords and respiration, but the gift of music (and even of humor!) was given to us by His design, so I would assume that He would, in some capacity, share in it with us. Jesus could certainly do those things, so that right there should be enough to say God does--since Jesus is God.


How come it seems that the Old Testament God is different from the New Testament God? OT: ordering Pharaoh to kill firstborns, Hosea 13:16 ripping wombs of women.. But in NT, Jesus tells us: Matthew 5:39, Matthew 7:12 etc. It seems like the OT God doesn't point or lead to NT.

                The reason why we understand the grace and mercy of NT God is because we properly understand the righteousness and justice of OT God. If we didn't have those clear examples (such as in Hosea) of God's absolute standard of holiness, including the severity of the punishment that fits the crime, we would never understand exactly what penalty Christ absorbed on our behalf, and the gravity of sin that God had forgiven out of an undeserved love for us.  As a necessary correction though, God never ordered Pharaoh to kill the firstborns in Egypt.  God killed the firstborns Himself in the tenth plague as a curse on all His enemies.  In that same plague, He offers a means of salvation through the blood of a spotless lamb.


Does God make mistakes?

                Nope.  God's understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5). Looking at how the biblical authors regarded him, you find that they know with certainty that He always fulfills what He promises and is never incompetent or incapable of doing so (Numbers 23:19). Everything He does is righteous and holy (Psalm 145:17).
                Even in cases where it seems like God says He made a mistake (Genesis 6:5-7), His plan never actually changes course (Genesis 6:8). Even in His creation of Satan, God had not felt it was a mistake, but allowed Satan to rebel as he did (Romans 9:22-24). God's plan was laid out from before anything ever happened, so mistakes would not persist if the plan was foreordained and the events were foreknown (Ephesians 3:9-11).
                God Himself says that He determines the ends from the beginnings of all things (Isaiah 46:9-10). The very fact of His omniscience is solid proof against mistakes, else He would not have known everything.


Why did God create mankind?

                I think the simplest answer is really, "Because He wanted to."
                God didn't create man out of need. He created him out of love. He chose to share in relationship with us. He allowed that relationship to be so genuine that we could actually choose for or against it, so that no one is programmed to love Him, but is freely called to choose Him over anything else. That's what makes our bond with Christ infinitely more meaningful.


I saw a video on concentration camps during Hitler's rule in class.  How come God didn't help the poor suffering people?

                First, let me acknowledge how the Holocaust is a horrifying tragedy. It ranks among one of the worst blights in the past century. No human being should be able to learn about this event without being provoked to some amount of distress over how terrible that moment in history was.
                Now remember this: The Holocaust happened not because God didn't help, but because man didn't listen. It was the result of human disobedience, not divine negligence. People brought it about. This demonstrates to us how our own free will--the ability to make our own decisions--places on us a huge responsibility to do what's right. God allows man to operate according to his own agency. This is our greatest gift, which we most greatly abuse. 
                God's activity in this world is not to shower down blessing on the world and prevent everyone from living the lives they choose. Rather, it's a time of great patience and forbearance, where God calls out those who would respond to salvation, and stores up His wrath for the day that He in fact does avenge for the evil that's done in the world.
                Our responsibility, as the body of Christ, is to work in the world to carry out his will while we can here on earth. When tragedy like the Holocaust happens, it definitely means we need to pray for God's power to work within his people, and we have to mount up our efforts to resolve the situation. Our hope is not for everyone to experience judgment for the great evil they we do, but to realize the gravity of sin, to earnestly repent, and be graciously renewed.


Can God create a problem that he cannot solve? If he can't then he's not omnipotent and if he can then he's neither right?

                Haha, your question adheres to a fundamental attributional error regarding your operative definition of power and weakness.
                Were God able to create problems that were greater than His ability to provide solution, that does not (in its very essence) lend itself to boast of His omnipotence, but rather, His impotence. The best example is man: we create all sorts of problems that we can't solve. That doesn't show how powerful we are, but rather how powerful we are NOT. Our ability to ruin more than restore is a remark about our limitation, not our magnitude.
                So you're conclusion ("If he can't, then he's not omnipotent") is internally and unavoidably flawed by the lack of validity to the supposed logical premise. But at least the second part of your conclusion ("if he can [create problems he can't solve] then he's neither [omnipotent or omniscient]") is half correct: that would mean He is not omnipotent, but it would say nothing about whether or not He's omniscient. That issue is distinctly separate from the argument at hand. After all, it makes no difference whether God knows about the problem or not--if He is unable to correct it, He is unable to correct it, and no amount of knowledge changes that clause or else the supposed paradox wouldn't present itself to begin with.


Can you explain the hierarchy within the Trinity?

                The hierarchy only explains the direction of authority among the three Persons of the Trinity. The Spirit submits to both the Father and Son (John 14:16; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7; and especially John 16:13-14). The Son submits to the Father (Luke 22:42; John 5:36; John 20:21; 1 John 4:14). This doesn't affect the deity of Son or Spirit; it simply helps us understand their function.



If Jesus was fully human, does that mean he was also inherently sinful?

                No. Jesus was not inherently sinful because the inherited sin of mankind is passed down through the seed of the man (Romans 5:12,15,17,18). That's why it was so important for Jesus to be born from a virgin (Mary), conceived not by a man, but by the Holy Spirit.  Sinfulness is inherited by all human beings, but it was not the original design. Adam and Eve were fully human, but not inherently sinful. Jesus, in this way, is fully human, but not inherently sinful. He did not come from Adam's line.


Is it true that Jesus wasn't born around December 25th?

                The short answer is basically this: Christmas has a lot of different pagan origins, the most popular being the worship of a false god (emperor worship). Of course, Christians rebelled against these kinds of practices and decided to celebrate the birth of the true King Jesus instead of the birth of the emperor or anyone else.  Christmas is testimony to the mission of God's people: to evangelize what's fallen and sinful and bring it into godly worship. 
                Jesus was not born on December 25th. That was never claimed in the Bible nor by the early Christians who began the Christmas tradition. But it was a pagan holiday that was transformed into something good.
                For more information, check my website for a Christmas sermon called "The Inn, the Manger, and Other Popular Myths". It's in the "Topical Series" section. http://www.randcho.com/Sermons/sermons.htm


As a kid, did Jesus know what he would do in the future? How did his family interact with him, knowing that he's the Son of God? And do you think he told all his friends/classmates that he's the Savior?

                The only glimpse we see of Jesus during his childhood is in Luke 2:41-52. He was 12 years old and was fully aware of his divine nature. But because he was so quiet about his messianic identity even during his adult years (for example, Matthew 12:15-16), it's easy to see that he wouldn't have gone around telling an extremely religious society that he (a young boy, not a man) was the Messiah about whom all the Holy Scriptures had all prophesied. That would be counterproductive to keeping his messianic identity a secret until the appropriate time.

                Jesus' family didn't seem to always grasp his true calling though. Mary knows that Jesus is the Savior (an angel told her in Luke 1:30-33), but her expectations were different than the way Jesus actually ended up doing things. At one point, she thinks he's doing things wrong (Mark 3:21). Jesus' plan to save the world by dying for it was really not something anyone really thought would happen. It was prophesied cryptically in the Old Testament, and Jesus told his disciples plainly several times, but when he was actually crucified it threw everyone into shock and confusion. Mary was at the crucifixion and she too mourned, not knowing that Jesus was going to be raised from the dead. What that tells us is that Jesus grew up knowing his destiny, but even those around him who knew of his divine origin didn't really know with full realization what he was destined to do.


Could Jesus Christ have sinned?

                People like to take sides on that philosophical question. Some say He can't be "tempted" if He's not able to sin. Others say Jesus can't sin because Jesus is God, so if Jesus does something, that's what God wanted, so it's not sin.
                Personally, I think the second argument is more fluffy. The first one has a better point without being decoratively abstract. There really wouldn't be meaning in tempting Jesus if He were unable to choose to do what Satan wanted Him to do. Even Satan should known that then, so the fact that Satan even tried implies that He thought Jesus had the ability to give in.
                Because we have freewill, I think God does too. But He's just smarter and wiser so He makes the better decision. Adam and Eve were sinless at creation, and they had the power to choose. So being sinless doesn't mean you can't sin. Jesus was sinless, but nothing indicates to us that He lacks freewill. Else, God has created man with a function that He himself does not have.


Why do we say Jesus is the SON of God, and also that Jesus IS God?

                Awesome question. This is a REALLY important thing to understand about God, and my response here is an extremely abbreviated one. It would be better to study the issue in a more detailed setting with your church, but this should help get you started.

                The answer to your question is: Jesus is the Son of God. Yes. And Jesus is God. Yes. Both are true statements. Yes. It is confusing. Yes.  We'll handle it in four major statements:

1) There is only ONE God.

2) The ONE God exists in THREE persons--God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.

3) The three persons are all equal in divine nature--each person is fully God.

4) The three persons are each fully God, but they are not identical to each other. That means the Father is NOT the Son, the Son is NOT the Spirit, and the Spirit is NOT the Father.

                This theological understanding is popularly termed as the "Trinity" (or tri-unity). The three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit) each have different roles in their relationship to each other as the one true God. There is unity and there is distinction.
Anything that is true of God (ie. righteous, holy, omnipotent, etc.) is true of all three persons. 

                What often confuses us about this doctrine is that there is nothing in the universe like this. No single being exists as three separate persons.  Not only that, but there's a lot of mix-up with how we refer to them. The Son we refer to as "Jesus" which is very easy to organize in our brains. The Father, however, is frequently just called "God" (even by Jesus himself!) and so is the Spirit (Genesis 1:2).

                The Trinity provides us with the ultimate model for relationships within the Church. Two persons are to operate in oneness, and God is the perfect embodiment of that.   Understanding the Trinity is critical to true biblical faith. To deny the doctrine of the Trinity is to fall into an aberrant theology, a false gospel, and a cult faith.

                Some serious heresies to avoid are:

1) Tritheism. Some people have wrongfully concluded that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are three separate gods. This is not true. They exist eternally as the one God. A clear example of God's unity is in Deuteronomy 6:4, which declares that Yahweh God is ONE. Frequently throughout Scripture, there is the emphasis that there is only one God and there is no other like Him. Tritheism forgets the oneness of God while emphasizing the separateness of the persons.

2) Modalism. Other people have wrongfully concluded that the one God has no distinctions between Father, Son, and Spirit. Those persons are more like masks or modes (hence, "modalism") that he can switch around, but there is only one person behind it all. This is not true. The three persons are distinct from one another, and can be seen interacting with one another at times (such as in Matthew 3, where God speaks of Jesus, Jesus is being baptized, and the Spirit descends upon him). Modalism forgets the separateness of the persons while emphasizing the oneness of God.

                Some additional information that are not mentioned above include the following (ask your pastor about these):

1) God's plural name (Elohim) with singular verbal treatment.

2) The single God's self-reference in plural form in Genesis 1:26-27 and in Matthew 28:19-20.

3) The multiple references to Christ as the Son of God (ie. Matthew 3:17) and Christ as God (Romans 9:5).

4) The shared attributes that are descriptive of the one God, and also descriptive of one or more of the three persons (ie. Alpha & Omega, Creator of the world, holiness, sinlessness etc.).


Why is it so amazing that God "gave his only Son" when in actuality He's omnipotent and so could resurrect Jesus, making that whole death sequence moot? It seems like it'd only be a risk and/or sacrifice if Jesus had even a chance of dying permanently.

                That's a great thing to ask about. 
                The death of Christ was a huge sacrifice by God. As you know, He didn't permanently lose His Son, and God planned the crucifixion and resurrection, so it's not like He was surprised by it at all.  Yet the crucifixion still remains God's greatest demonstration of mercy, grace, and love. Consider the following reasons:
                1) Jesus is God. If you created billions of ants on an antfarm, and those ants said they didn't like you, and they insulted you, and they wanted you to go away. Let's say they were guilty of crime(s) that deserved death--like they attacked your family frequently. Would you go away? Would you destroy them? Would you ever consider becoming an ant, able to feel pain and incur injury, and go and let those ants kill you so as to detour the destruction you should unleash on them? It's the fact that God would suffer for "ants" that speaks of His great humility.
                2) Jesus became a man. To ultimately lead to the cross, Jesus was born as a human being in the flesh and lived among us. I don't know what that was like, but I imagine it had to be a little frustrating at times, since He's God Almighty, growing up for 30 years in human frailty, surrounded by people who weren't close to a fraction of his power or understanding. 
                3) His suffering was real. Just because Jesus came back to life doesn't somehow negate the torture and agony he endured. That would be as ridiculous as if I said, "Let me saw off your leg right now. After all, our medical technology gives us the power to restore it." The restoration of your leg doesn't nullify the pain you experienced. 
                4) His torturers were men. It was men who tortured Jesus. The comparison of value and worthiness and power is infinitely large. He allowed his own creation, his own creatures, the ones he was trying to save, the ones who betrayed his love, to mock him and torture him and beat him to death in the most shameful manner possible.
                5) His death was undeserved. Jesus never actually did anything to deserve what he experienced. Have you ever received a bad grade on an assignment that you did properly, but the grader just messed up? Or have you ever been accused of stuff you didn't do? Did you ever receive a punishment that was meant for someone else (maybe a sibling)? The whole trial and punishment that men threw at Jesus was entirely orchestrated outside the realm of justice, righteousness, goodness, and godliness. He got messed up for doing nothing wrong, by people who deserved every ounce of pain he received, and he walked into the situation knowing this would happen. 
                6) He was separated from God. Jesus' death on the cross was in substitution of the sin of man--not just one man, but all mankind. His death was sufficient to blot out the sins of the entire world, and applied to all those who repent and believe. Because of that, God the Father couldn't bear to look at the Son on the cross. He saw evil, wickedness, rebellion. That's why Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" That separation, though not permanent, was the most heart-wrenching moment of his life. It was the moment where the only person who truly understood him, the only person who perfectly and fully loved him, the only person who could see how wrong the situation was and how messed up the whole world was and how excruciating the ordeal must have been--that person, God the Father, turned away, rejecting His Son, placing the blame on him for every wicked deed the whole world ever would commit. I don't know if that communicates to you, but I know that even if my relationship with my wife is permanent and every trouble is temporary, I never want to endure a look of total horror and rejection and disgust and contempt from her to me for something someone else did wrong that I was taking the blame for. As human beings, we can't logically do that--intentionally placing blame on someone else, but God can. And God did. He perfectly unleashed all the wrath and rejection and punishment that we deserved onto Jesus on the cross, and the entire ordeal which culminated in the Son's death was enough to satisfy the divine justice that had to be fulfilled. 
                This He did only to save the ones who put him there.
                And He raised Jesus up again, not to undo the tragedy poured upon him, but to give us a sign of his complete victory over our peril, and to call us into salvation to share in the master's happiness for all eternity.
                For that, I'm grateful. I hope you are too.


Why is the focus of how much Christ was beaten so important? I feel like so many people use this in an attempt to capture sympathy. I know that Jesus was beaten beyond recognition, but I feel like apostle Paul was beaten to a worse degree. Is this sin?

                The issue is not about who got beaten worse. Whether Paul was or not, that doesn't change the main fact: God's Son became flesh to save mankind, and men tortured and killed him. It's not sin to realize the horror of the act. It would be sin to ignore it.
                Focusing on the torture and pain should always point the disciple to understanding God's mercy and grace. The undeserved punishment, in all its severity, is the pinnacle of His love for us and His will to save. If we focus on capturing sympathy without urging repentance, we've missed the point of all that God had done for us.
                One major difference between Paul and Jesus, though: Paul was born a sinful human being. His life was full of evil up until the point of his salvation. He had many Christians tortured and killed. For him to undergo the same thing would be only a fraction of the justice that was due him.
                Jesus, however, was sinless. He did no evil and deserved no punishment at all. What made his suffering "worse" was not really in the severity of the pain, but in the injustice of the act. It would be as torturing an innocent child instead of a criminal. The fact that it was undeserved is where our greatest outrage should be sourced.


Did Jesus go to hell? I was told that he didn't GO to hell but he "CONSUMED" hell.  I think it was in the Apostles' Creed.

                The Apostles' Creed says, "...he was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead."  Note, however, that the line "he descended into hell" is not found in every version of the Apostles' Creed. The creed shows up in many of our historical documents--some include that line, others do not.  But whether it does or doesn't is incidental. The meaning of it is not to say that Jesus went to a location called hell. 
                When Christ hung on the cross, he told the thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). That means that after Jesus died, he wasn't in hell for 3 days until his resurrection, but he was in heaven--and so was that thief.  Christ's words on the cross just before his death were, "It is finished!" not "It is almost finished!" His death was the end of his suffering. It was his death on the cross that paid for our sins. There is nothing in Scripture that says it was his torment in hell that paid for our sins.
                The moment that we might point to and say Jesus experienced hell was when the Father forsook the Son (Matthew 27:46). Since hell is, by nature, a state of separation from God, that would have been the hell Jesus experienced while being killed. 
                So Jesus didn't go to hell, and Jesus consume hell either.  That idea is more artistic in saying that Jesus totally destroyed the power of Satan over God's people--hell can't overtake them. Jesus didn't sit down and eat hell. He didn't envelop it with some kind of magical energy or anything like that. Hell will exist for all eternity, so to say he consumed it is not meant to be understood as he got rid of it. He defeated hell for him and his people; that is the proper understanding.

If the punishment for my sins was eternal punishment in hell, then how did the death of Jesus pay for my sins? Shouldn't Jesus be subject to eternal punishment in hell if he was to take my punishment?

                The punishment for sin is eternal because the offense is against an eternal God. That means the only way to satisfy justice would be for a finite being to pay for eternity or an infinite being to pay once-and-for-all. For a normal human being, we would spend eternity in hell. For Jesus who is not only a man, but is fully God in human form, He is infinite. He paid the infinite price on the cross when he died for all the sins of the world throughout all time. He paid the penalty on the cross once-and-for-all.


If Jesus were to be a wealthy man on earth, how would he spend his money?  What kind of food would he eat?  What kind of clothes would he wear?  What kind of house would he live in?  What kind of car would he drive?

                I don't think there would be room for Jesus to be a wealthy man on earth, given his particular purpose and calling. His wealth would have interfered with his messianic mission. Israel actually expected a rich, powerful, militaristic, governmental savior for their people. Jesus came with the outright intention to challenge where we put our worldly hope. So to ask what he would be like if he were wealthy is almost the equivalent of asking what he would be like if he were deformed (since he was also supposed to be a lamb without blemish or defect).
                But to speculate on the question anyway, I think Jesus would use his money the same way he taught us to use ours:
1) He wouldn't bury it or ignore it. He would use it wisely to make more of it (Matthew 25:14-30).
2) His wealth would be a tool for ministry to bless others and build eternal relationships (Luke 16:1-12).
3) He would be generous not only in spending it for others, but in giving it away with nothing to gain for himself (1 Timothy 6:6-10 and 6:17-19).
4) He would direct much of what he has for those who have not (James 1:27).
5) He would find deep satisfaction and fulfillment in using the world's money for God's purpose (2 Corinthians 9:7-15).




When did the Holy Spirit begin to exist?

                The Holy Spirit began to exist at the same time God began to exist: before there was space-time. He is eternal and non-temporal, though able to operate in our linear continuum.   His first appearance in the Bible is in Genesis 1:2. He was present at the creation of the universe, already existing.


If the Holy Spirit was not present on Earth until after the resurrection, could people before that produce the fruit of the Spirit?  Could they be "filled with the Spirit?"

                The Holy Spirit was present on the Earth before the resurrection; but He did not indwell God's people.           Just because the Holy Spirit did not indwell God's people in the Old Testament does not logically conclude that God's people could not experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).   The FRUIT of the Spirit--that is, the RESULT of having the Holy Spirit inside you as a believer--will be those virtues. Those are results of God dwelling within the person.  The Old Testament saints could still love and be patient and act gently. But it did not come with such instinctive and persuasive power as it does within someone who understands the gravity of sin, the value of righteousness, the atonement at the cross, and the power of the Spirit for the edification of the Church.

                In terms of being "filled with the Spirit," the Old Testament usage of that phrase really refers to supernatural empowerment of specific individuals, such as when Samson is filled with great strength. In the New Testament, the phrase is used of people who are living in godliness, and is an expectation God has of all His people.  Though He did not indwell the Old Testament saints, the Holy Spirit did sometimes empower someone for incredible ministry.


What does it mean when someone is manifesting with the Holy Spirit?

                That's not an official term in theology, but more a popular expression.  Lots of people use that to describe moments like when a person begins to pray with ecstatic speech ("speaking in tongues").  Some of the more extreme churches begin to include more peculiar behaviors, such as intense wailing or barking, even vomiting or seizing--these are suspect, in my opinion, as they have no real precedence in Scripture.  But when you see what it means to be filled with the Spirit biblically, it means the Holy Spirit is the guiding motive and energy behind what you're doing. So here's my angle on how I use that expression: When you decide to forgive a parent that abandoned you because your prayers have brought you toward that conviction, you are acting out what the Spirit is working in your heart. That is just as legitimate of a manifestation of the Spirit than when you do something that appears more spiritual or miraculous or whatever. A man who reconciles with a wife and repents of violence or drunkenness because he has found a love for Christ and holiness--that man is manifesting the Spirit too. Every believer can and should manifest the Spirit. It means that the believer will behave in such a way that it becomes obvious that God is working his heart and transforming the way he lives--no longer for himself, but all for the glory of Christ.


What is the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? How does this occur in a modern context?

                The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, meaning that He is fully God, but He is not the Father, nor is He the Son. He is a person not in a physical sense, but in that He is not simply a force or a phenomenon, but a real being with affections and intentions and will.
                To be "filled with the Spirit" is an expression that is used to describe living under His control. For instance, when we say someone is "filled with greed" it means everything he does is an act that demonstrates his greed. The same would be said if we said a person was "filled with anger" or "filled with lust." It's a way of describing how his actions are so motivated by and energized by something. A person who is filled with the Spirit is one who acts with godly motives and demonstrates true righteousness in what he does. He is also energized by the Spirit, meaning his gifts are used properly and they bring about the result that God intends. (That doesn't mean that every spiritual service he performs will result in an instant large-scale success; it simply means that it will bear fruit in the life or lives of the people God is calling)
                In our modern context, being filled with the Spirit is a person who is dedicated to pursuing righteousness, reading God's Word, praying in all circumstances, serving faithfully, and unashamedly living under Christ even while in the midst of a fallen world. Those are the people who enter a room and you know there's a sense of God's presence that is there too. This person will challenge and convict the people around him simply by being who he is.