QUESTION: "Leviticus 11:21-22 says: 'These may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth... the locust ... the bald locust... the beetle... and the grasshopper ....' Does this mean that we can eat these bugs?"
ANSWER: The first chapter of the book of Mark speaks of John the Baptist who "was clothed with camel's hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey" (Mark 1:6). Christ said of this man: "Among those born of — women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist." So he was a righteous man, and he ate locusts. However, John apparently lived a very unconventional, austere personal life (Luke 5:33-34) in the desert. In such an arid region there is not a great variety of edibles (see Luke 1:80). But the fact that the Bible shows it is all right for us to eat these insects doesn't mean we have to, any more than we have to eat any meat at all if it offends our sensibilities or our consciences (Rom. 14:2-4). As for eating "beetles," exactly defining which insect the original Hebrew text referred to is very difficult. Apparently the only insects designated as being fit to eat were the ones with legs designed for jumping, such as locusts and grasshoppers. Many of us would find it hard to eat these creatures unless we were extremely hungry. But some who have eaten fried grasshoppers say they are delicious. At any rate, it is perfectly permissible according to Leviticus 11 to eat grasshoppers and locusts if one chooses to do so. (Further information is available in our free reprint article "Is All Animal Flesh Good Food?")
Q: "I am most interested in the doctrine of penance. Some say it is a sacrament. Your views, please."
Port Jefferson, New York
A: Doing penance for sins is based on the idea that we need to do something to earn God's forgiveness, or that we can be justified by our own works. This is not a biblical concept. Romans 3:23-28 reads: "Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith.... For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law." The Bible says there is "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5), so we do not need the intervention of a human being to obtain forgiveness for our sins. Christians have been "buried with him [Christ] in baptism.... And [we], who were dead in trespasses ... God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses" (Col. 2:12-13). Some try to use John 20:23 to prove that persons in ecclesiastical offices have the power to forgive sins. This verse reads: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. "However, it does not mean that mere men can actually forgive sins in a spiritual sense. God alone can forgive sins (Mark 2:7-10; Luke 5:21-24). Christ spoke these words to His future apostles in the context of the Church authority He was giving them (see John 20:21) — the power to disfellowship those who were dissenters or heretics (see I Corinthians 5:2 and I Timothy 1:20) and bring them back into the congregation upon repentance (II Cor. 2:6- 10). Also the penances some humans seek to impose (repetition of various prayers and so forth) often come under the category of the "empty phrases" (RSV) or "vain repetitions" (KJV) Christ spoke of in Matthew 6:7.
Q: "Awhile ago you people ran an article Intimating that prophecy Is conditional in certain instances. Could you please elaborate?"
A: Yes, certain parts of the prophetic writings are conditional, although some prophecies such as those predicting Christ's second coming and the utopian millennial reign are unconditional. God gives man a choice; if we repent He will have mercy on us. Leviticus 26 illustrates this principle. It enumerates the blessings and curses prophesied to come upon ancient Israel according to whether or not they kept the covenant God made with them. The same concept is found in Deuteronomy 29 and 30: "When all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you this day, with all your heart and with all your soul; then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes, and have compassion upon you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.... and he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.... And the Lord your God will put all these curses upon your foes and enemies who persecuted you.... for the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God... with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. 30:1-10). The entire book of Jonah is an account of how God sent one of His prophets to the ancient city of Nineveh to warn them of their impending doom if they did not mend their ways. They repented and "proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them" (Jonah 3:5). And "When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it" (verse 10). Another example of the outcome of prophecy being delayed by repentance is found in II Chronicles 32. God had miraculously healed Hezekiah of a fatal disease, "But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem" (verse 25). God told him, "Behold, the days are coming,. when all that is in your house... shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left..... (II Kings 20:17). "But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah" (II Chron. 32:26). Again, when a nation or individual repents, God has mercy on them.
Q: "Will we know our loved ones after death? When Jesus Christ returns, raises up the dead, then gathers His elect to meet Him in the clouds, will all that are left on earth still be human? Or will they be changed too, as the ones caught up to Him?"
A: Although those resurrected to eternal life at the second coming of Christ will have glorified immortal spirit bodies (I Cor-1 5:53), they will be able to appear in a recognizable form. The disciples were able to recognize Christ after His resurrection (Luke 24:36-43). The rich man (in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Luke 16:19-31) was able to recognize Lazarus after they had both been resurrected. Christ's friend Lazarus (Mary and Martha's brother, not the same man as in the Luke 16 parable) was raised from the dead to physical life, and looked no different than before. Those persons who are not changed at Christ's second coming (I Thess. 4:13-17) will still be human. Isaiah 11:8 shows that they will have children. They Ľand their descendants will have an opportunity to become converted and eventually to be changed into spirit beings also. For more information on this subject, read our free reprint article "What Will You Be Like in the Resurrection?"
Q: "You say we are to stay in our graves until the first resurrection. Please explain Luke 23:42-43 in this connection."
West Orange, New Jersey
A: Luke 23:42-43, part of the account of the thief on the cross, reads: "And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.' And he [Christ] said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'" Notice, the thief asked Christ to remember him when He came into His Kingdom (KJV). Christ will not receive His Kingdom until His second coming (see Revelation 11:15), which has not yet occurred. (Read our free booklet Just What Do You Mean... Kingdom Of God?) Some confusion has resulted due to the placement of the comma next to the word "today" in verse 43. The original Greek manuscript contained no punctuation, so the translators added punctuation marks wherever they thought appropriate. The verse could more accurately have been punctuated: "Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in [a future] Paradise. "This better conveys the true meaning of the verse. For a more detailed explanation of this subject, read our free booklets What Is The Reward Of The Saved?, Where are Enoch and Elijah? and After Death... then What?
Q: "Revelation 3:11 reads, 'I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.' My question is, what is It we have that we are supposed to hang on to?"
A: In the context Christ is addressing one of the local congregations which was located on a mail route in Asia Minor. They had been faithful to the words and teachings of Jesus Christ who said:..... You have kept my word and have not denied my name..." (Rev. 3:8). Though that congregation was lacking in miracle-working power (dunamis in the Greek) — verse 8 — they were faithful to Christ's teachings which had been transmitted through the apostles. Unlike some others in the early Church, these Christians had not been ashamed of Christ (compare Mark 8:38). They had not denied their allegiance to Him as their Savior and the Head of the Church. They were admonished to hang on to these values. They were to continue to remain faithful to the word of Christ and to His leadership. As we read in the book of Acts, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Today's Christian can apply these timeless words to his or her own situation. We too must remain faithful to the written instructions of Christ and be unashamed to openly declare that He, and He alone, is our Savior and High Priest.