Ligonier Ministries Blog

Ligonier Ministries
Ligonier Ministries
  1. “She is not dead but sleeping” (Luke 8:52). Jesus made this comment about Jairus’s daughter when He was about to raise her from the dead. Frequently the Bible refers to death by the figure of “sleep.” Because of this image, some have concluded that the New Testament teaches the doctrine of soul sleep. Soul sleep is usually described as a kind of temporary suspended animation of the soul between the moment of personal death and the time when our bodies will be resurrected. When our bodies are raised from the dead, the soul is awakened to begin conscious personal continuity in heaven. Though centuries may pass between death and final resurrection, the “sleeping” soul will have no conscious awareness of the passing of time. Our transition from death to heaven will seem to be instantaneous. Soul sleep represents a departure from orthodox Christianity. It remains, however, as a firmly entrenched minority report among Christians. The traditional view is called the intermediate state. This view holds that at death, the believer’s soul goes immediately to be with Christ to enjoy a continuous, conscious, personal existence while awaiting the final resurrection of the body. When the Apostles’ Creed speaks of the “resurrection of the body,” it is not referring to the resurrection of Christ’s human body (which is also affirmed in the Creed) but to the resurrection of our bodies at the last day. But what happens in the meantime? The classical view is that at death the souls of believers are immediately glorified. They are made perfect in holiness and enter immediately into glory. Their bodies, however, remain in the grave, awaiting final resurrection. Jesus promised the thief on the cross that “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Those who support the concept of soul sleep argue that Jesus could not have meant that He would meet the thief in paradise that very day because Jesus would be dead for three days and He had not yet ascended. Although Christ’s ascension had indeed not yet occurred and His body certainly was in the grave, He had commended His spirit to the Father. We are assured that at the moment of His death, the soul of Jesus went to Paradise as He declared. Soul sleep advocates argue that most English editions of the Bible have misplaced the comma. They read it this way: “I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” With this change in punctuation the “today” then refers to the time Jesus is speaking rather than the time Jesus will meet the thief in Paradise. This punctuation is unlikely, however. It was perfectly obvious to the thief on what day Jesus was conversing with him. It was hardly necessary for Jesus to say He was speaking “today.” This waste of words for a man gasping for breath in the throes of crucifixion is highly unlikely. Rather, consistent with the rest of the biblical evidence to the intermediate state (see especially Phil. 1:19–26 and 2 Cor. 5:1–10), the promise to the thief is that he would be reunited with Christ in Paradise that very day. The state of the believer after death is both different and better than what we experience in this life, though not as different or as blessed as it will be in the final resurrection. In the intermediate state we will enjoy the continuity of conscious personal existence in the presence of Christ. Mankind’s probation ends at death. Our ultimate destiny is decided when we die. There is no hope of a second chance of repentance after death, and there is no place of purging such as purgatory to improve our future condition. For the believer, death is immediate emancipation from the conflict and turmoil of this life as we enter into our state of blessedness. Though death brings rest to the soul and the Bible often refers to death by the euphemism of sleep, it is not proper to assume that in the intermediate state the soul sleeps or that we remain unconscious or in a state of suspended animation until the final resurrection.
  2. First of all, the Minor Prophets are part of the Scriptures, so that is one answer. We should be students of the whole Bible, not just the New Testament and the book of Psalms, but the whole Bible—and the twelve Minor Prophets conclude the redemptive message of the Old Testament.

    These books vary considerably. I suppose the entry point would be Jonah—and who doesn’t like the story of Jonah? It’s a story about the immense love of God for people who are gentiles. It’s a narrative of a prophet being sent to the Ninevites with the gospel. But Jonah didn’t think the Ninevites deserved the gospel, so he ran hundreds of miles in the opposite direction, only to be thrown into the sea and swallowed by a whale. Even at the end of the book, Jonah is still disgruntled. So, it teaches us many things, such as how God uses broken people.

    My entry point into the Minor Prophets as a young Christian was the book of Amos, and Amos uses very simple country Hebrew, though I was reading it in English at the time. I discovered Alec Motyer’s commentary on it, which is absolutely fabulous, and it brought Amos to light and made it tremendously relevant.

    Micah is a prophet who is Isaiah Mach 2. He’s not as wordy as Isaiah, but he is a contemporary of Isaiah. Micah was more out in the country, whereas Isaiah was in Jerusalem. But the message of Micah is similar to Isaiah: it’s a message about Christ, the coming Redeemer, and the fulfillment of the promise of God that a King like David would rule and reign.

    Many of the Minor Prophets have aspects of genre and literature that make them, perhaps, initially difficult to understand. Many of them have visions of the day of the Lord, the coming apocalypse, the coming day of judgment, and the promise of a new heavens and new earth. They’re visionary and many of them use poetic language, so it’s a left brain, right brain kind of thing whether you can go with the flow of poetry and imagery. This is probably true of every book of the Bible, but the Minor Prophets require a good commentary and a good study Bible, like the Reformation Study Bible, to understand the nuances of what they’re saying.

    Once you fall in love with the Minor Prophets and how they anticipate the coming of Christ—in Joel, for example, Peter quotes Joel about the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost—it helps you understand the total narrative of redemption from beginning to end.

  3. We live in a world that needs awakening. Millions of people do not know Jesus Christ. The church itself needs renewed zeal for the truth, for spiritual growth, and for missions. Scripture reveals how this awakening comes about: by a powerful movement of the Spirit of God. It also tells us that when just two men—Paul and Silas—prayed, the earth itself shook (Acts 16:25–26). So we are dedicating the entire year of 2023 to pray for awakening, and we hope you will, too. To help as many people as possible, we produced this free prayer guide. Download it today at, find it in the PrayerMate app, or order the prayer booklet in packs of ten to share with your loved ones. To use the guide, find the prayer that corresponds to the current week. Each week of the month focuses on a different group to pray for, starting with you and your family and expanding to the world and the global church. You can also share your desire to #PrayForAwakening on social media. OCTOBER PRAYER FOCUS: Week 1: Pray that you and your family will offer yourselves to God as living sacrifices, wholly committed to His will. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1) Week 2: Pray that you will be willing to speak God’s Word to the people in your life and that God will supply opportunities to do so. “You shall teach [God’s commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deut. 6:7) Week 3: Pray that God will bring the leaders of your city and your nation to faith in Christ. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Prov. 21:1) Week 4: Pray that the church around the world, especially in countries where it is severely persecuted, will faithfully declare the glory and works of God. “Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (1 Chron. 16:23–24) We hope this prayer guide encourages you this year and in future years. Join us in praying fervently for a mighty movement of God’s Spirit today, thankful that He has graciously promised to hear us, and confident that He will answer our prayers according to His will. DOWNLOAD PRAYER GUIDE
  4. Clear, biblical teaching is always within reach in the free Ligonier app, available on Apple and Android devices. It’s like carrying a vast theological library on your devices, filled with thousands of discipleship resources that you can read, watch, and listen to anytime. Find resources from Dr. R.C. Sproul, the Ligonier Ministries Teaching Fellows, and more of your favorite pastors, authors, and teachers. WHEN YOU DOWNLOAD THE FREE APP, YOU CAN: Listen to Renewing Your Mind, Ligonier’s podcast library, and sermons from R.C. Sproul Watch daily teaching videos and more than 50 free teaching series Search thousands of free articles, devotionals, conference messages, and more Sign in to access your purchased teaching series and ebooks in your Learning Library Cast messages to a connected device Download your favorite messages for offline playback There’s always something new to study in the app, and we regularly add biblical and theological resources to help you grow in your knowledge of God. Make sure you enable notifications so you can keep up with the latest teaching and ministry updates from Ligonier. The free Ligonier app is available in the App Store for iPhone or iPad as well as on Google Play for your phone or tablet. Just search for “Ligonier” in your app store to get started.
  5. The concept in the New Testament that describes and defines what it means to be a servant before Christ is the word stewardship. Economics and the ethical and emotional issues that surround it are frequent topics of discussion and front-page news items. This is particularly true in an election year, when much of the debate focuses on economic issues. What we don’t see initially is that other issues, such as education and abortion, are also questions of economics. Broadly understood, economics has to do not only with money or taxes or business but with the management of resources. That includes all of our resources, such as the resource of our unborn children and educational materials and policies. In other words, how we use our resources is the subject of economics, and in a biblical sense it is the chief concern of stewardship. Consider the verbal link between stewardship and economics. The English word economics and economy come from the Greek word oikonomia, which is made up of two parts: oikos, the word for “house” or “household,” and nomos, the word for “law.” So, oikos and nomos together literally mean "house law." Oikonomia is transliterated into English as “economy.” The English word that translates—rather than transliterates—the word oikonomia is the English word stewardship. So, stewardship and economics are closely related concepts, and in fact, to a New Testament Christian, there was no distinction between them. A steward in the ancient world was a person who was given the responsibility and authority to rule over the affairs of the household. For example, the patriarch Joseph became a steward over Potiphar’s household: he managed everything in the household and was given the authority to rule over the house (Gen. 39:1–6). In that role, he was responsible to manage the household well; he was not to waste the resources of the family but to make wise decisions. Yet, the role of the steward was not something that just happened to emerge in the Greek system of management, nor was it something invented by the Egyptians in the time of Joseph. The steward’s role derives from the principle of stewardship, which is rooted in the creation of mankind. Look at the foundations for stewardship found in the early chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1:26–28, we read: > Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” On the very first page of the Bible, we see the creation of human beings—made in the image of God, who revealed Himself initially as the Creator of all things—and the subsequent call of His image bearers to imitate Him in a certain way: by being productive. Human beings were commanded to be fruitful and multiply. This was a command for productivity, which has stewardship implications. Thus, the concern for stewardship is rooted in creation. Sometimes we think that the New Testament is not concerned with labor, industry, or productivity, but it is concerned only that we love each other and live by grace and not by works. But if we examine the parables and language of Jesus, we see an emphasis on the call to fruitfulness. Jesus calls His people to be fruitful not only in the multiplication of the species through propagation, but for the kingdom’s sake. This is an expansion of the creation ordinance that His people are to be productive. The second command given to Adam and Eve was to have dominion over the earth. God installed Adam and Eve as His vice-regents, those who were to rule in His stead over all of creation. It’s not that God granted independent ownership of the planet to humankind. It remains His possession. But God called Adam and Eve to exercise authority over the animals, plants, seas, rivers, sky, and the environment. They were not to exercise authority like a reckless tyrant who has carte blanche to do anything he wants, for God didn’t make Adam and Eve owners of the earth. He made them stewards of the earth, who were to act in His name and for His glory. Immediately after giving this mandate, God created a lush and gorgeous garden and placed Adam and Eve in it (Gen. 2:15). He commanded them “to work it and keep it.” This command to work and keep is key to understanding the responsibility that is given to human beings, which goes with the privileged status of being made in God's image and being given dominion over the earth. At creation, the mandate that God gave to humanity was for people to reflect and mirror God’s stewardship over this sphere of creation. This involves far more than religious enterprises or the church. It has to do with how we engage in scientific endeavors, how we do business, how we treat each other, how we treat animals, and how we treat the environment. That dominion over the earth is not a license to exploit, pillage, consume, or destroy the earth; it is a responsibility to exercise stewardship over our home by working and keeping it. Working and keeping one’s home means preventing it from falling apart, keeping it orderly, maintaining it, preserving it, and making it beautiful. The whole science of ecology is rooted and grounded in this principle. God didn't say, “From now on, all of your food will fall to you out of heaven.” He said, “You are to work with Me in being productive: dressing, tilling, planting, replenishing, and so on.” The next commandment that was given to Adam and Eve in the garden was to name the animals (Gen. 2:19). In its most elementary sense, this was the birth of science: learning to distinguish among species, kinds, and forms, and discerning reality as we examine it. This is also part of our stewardship—learning about the place where we live and caring about it. These principles are not simply for one's own house but for the entire planet. Some are old enough to remember the astonishing achievement of twentieth-century Americans when the first astronauts were sent to the moon. Inevitably, part of that memory includes astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first footsteps on the moon and when he spoke of a giant step for mankind. One could look at that human achievement simply in terms of human arrogance—or we could see it as a fulfillment of the mandate that God gave us to have dominion over creation. Fundamentally, stewardship is about exercising our God-given dominion over His creation, reflecting the image of our creator God in His care, responsibility, maintenance, protection, and beautification of His creation.