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Wordwise Insight, Issue #004 -- prophecy and hymn ideas
April 14, 2005

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS. Message outlines you are welcome to use: Why Unbelief Is Evil; What Makes Jesus Weep; and more

READER Q & A. The various views of Bible prophecy about the Millennium; what it means to deliver someone to Satan

IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH. "The Praying Hand;" how to use the Metrical Index in the hymn book; and more.

NEWS & REVIEWS. An excellent book to add to your library


Why Unbelief Is Evil
Hebrews tells us to beware of "an evil heart of unbelief" (Heb. 3:12). Unbelief is evil because:

1) It suggests God's Word is unreliable, that we cannot depend upon it.

2) It impugns the holy character of God, suggesting He is not speaking the truth.

3) It implies God is either weak or unloving, unwilling or unable to help us.

4) It lead's to disobedience, and the work of God is not done.

5) It robs the world of an important witness.

6) It wastes valuable time, and we all have only so much of it.

7) It keeps God's people from enjoying His blessings.

What Makes Jesus Weep?
The prophet Isaiah describes the coming Messiah as "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3). During His years of earthly ministry, He was "moved with compassion" over the spiritual condition of the multitudes (Matt. 9:36). The writer of Hebrews describes the sympathetic heart of Christ, our heavenly High Priest, even now, (Heb. 4:15). Twice in the Gospels it specifically speaks of the Lord weeping.

1) In Jn. 11:35 Christ is touched by the SORROW of the human heart. He realizes, as no one else does, the terrible blight on His creation caused by sin. There may even be sorrow at what He is about to do in the context--restore Lazarus temporarily to a corrupt world only to face death all over again.

2) In Lk. 19:41 Christ grieves over the SLOWNESS of the human heart (vs. 42). (Even the stones seem more perceptive, and potentially more responsive vs. 40!) And the spiritual blindness of Israel would soon bring terrible judgment (vs. 43-44).

Both of these, bereavement and blindness, are effects of human sin. And the solution to both is found in Christ Himself. He is the resurrection and the LIFE (Jn. 11:25; 14:6), and He is the LIGHT, the personal revelation of God's truth (Jn. 8:12; cf. 1:14).

Contrasting the Secular and the Spiritual Man
Psalm 17:13-15 provides an interesting contrast between the outlook of the believer and the unregenerate person. A contrast between...

1) Those who are enemies of God's people and therefore of God Himself, versus those who can call on God for deliverance because they are on His side ("deliver my soul from the wicked," vs. 13; cf. Rom. 8:31).

2) "Men of the world" (vs. 14), who see life as bounded by the cradle and the grave (or the womb and the tomb!), versus those whose "citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20).

3) "Men...who have their portion in this life" (vs. 14), versus those who have "treasures in heaven" (Matt. 6:19-21, 33; cf. I Pet. 1:3-4).

4) Those who are unaware of God's blessing and common grace ("whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure," vs. 14; cf. Matt. 5:45) versus those who recognize God's hand in every blessing (cf. Phil. 4:19; Jas. 1:17).

5) Those whose idea of "eternal life" is to live on in their children ("they are satisfied with children, and leave the rest of their possession for their babes, vs. 14) versus those who believe in the resurrection, and life after death ("as for me, I will see Your face in righteousness," vs. 15).

6) Those who face final judgment for sin (Heb. 9:27), versus those who will be perfected and confirmed in righteousness, through faith (vs. 15).

7) Those whose satisfaction is found in what they produce and acquire (vs. 14), versus those who find satisfaction in the fulfilment of God's purpose ("I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness," vs. 15).


Question: Glenn asks, "In Revelation 20 it refers to the 1000-year reign of Christ. Please explain the differences in the beliefs in those who are pre, post and amillennial?"

Answer: The word "millennium" is simply an English form of the Latin words mille annus, meaning a thousand years (taken, of course, from Revelation 20:4, "they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years").

The Postmillennial View. That through the preaching of the gospel the world will eventually be christianized, bringing in a golden age (a millennium). Then the world will be fit for Christ's return, and He will come back ("post" meaning after the millennium). This view was popular in the late 1800's, when new inventions and discoveries signaled great progress. But two world wars dashed the hopes of most postmilliennialists that the world is getting better. There are relatively few of them today. And, of course, the view does not square with Scripture that teaches us "perilous times" will come in the last days, and "evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse" (II Tim. 3:1-5, 13).

The Amillennial View. That there is no such thing as a literal, earthly millennium ("a" meaning no). To hold this view, most amillennialists "spiritualize" the many Bible chapters describing the earthly reign of the Messiah, applying them to the church today in some symbolic sense. For example, consider what Matthew Henry (an amillennialist) does with Isaiah 11:6-9. The passage speaks of the removal of the curse upon creation, and the harmony in the natural world during the earthly reign of Christ. It refers to the wolf and the lamb dwelling together, etc. But Henry says, "Unity or concord [is] intimated in these figurative of the most fierce and furious dispositions shall have their temper so strangely altered by the grace of Christ that they shall live in love with even the weakest and such as formerly were easy prey."

That the Lord transforms lives is quite true. The question is whether Isaiah meant that! And I would argue that he did not. The biggest problem with amillennialism is its inconsistent method of interpretation. It treats most of Scripture literally. But when it comes to many prophecies concerning Israel it resorts to "spiritualizing" (allegorizing). But then the question comes: Which Scriptures should be taken literally, and which should not? And who decides? (Matthew Henry decided those are "figurative promises," but who gave him that right?) As the old interpreters used to say, "If the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense."

The Bible can best be understood with a consistently literal interpretation, duly taking into account figures of speech. (See the article regarding the interpretation of prophecy on the website.) There are approximately 1,000 individual prophecies found in the Word of God. To date, around 500 (or half) of them have been literally fulfilled. That can give us confidence that a plain, natural meaning is intended by the prophets. For example, was Christ literally born in Bethlehem as Micah predicted (Mic. 5:2)? Or are we to treat "Bethlehem" in some spiritual or symbolic way, rather than as a literal town?

The Premillennial View (the position of this website). That Christ will come back, visibly, bodily, before ("pre" meaning before) the millennium, ushering in a golden age of peace and plenty on the earth. There is an enormous amount of Scripture describing His earthly reign from the throne of David, and the nature of life on earth at that time. A consistent treatment of the Scriptures (as even some amillennialists will admit) will lead one to be a premillennialist. A good book summarizing the arguments for this position is Ryrie's little volume The Basis of the Premillennial Faith.

Question: Glenn also asks, "I am really concerned about the various translations. In the NIV, in First Corinthians 5:5, it states, ‘Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed, and the spirit saved on the day of the Lord.' In the NKJV the same verse is translated, ‘Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.'" [Glenn's legitimate concern is that these do not sound the same.]

Answer:The availability of many different Bible translations in English can be a great blessing--or it can breed confusion and error. Unless we are experts in Hebrew and Greek, the safest course is to use one of the better literal translations as a main Bible, comparing others for study purposes. Among the newer versions, the New King James Version, and the New American Standard Bible are excellent. That is not to say they have absolutely no translation difficulties, but they tend to be reliable in the vast majority of cases. The New International Version is helpful many times too. But the translators often paraphrase (rephrasing the original in their own words, according to what they think it means). When this happens, the NIV becomes more of a man-made commentary than a Bible. And commentators can be wrong.

Bottom line: Use the NIV as a helpful study tool, but check it against a more literal translation.

Regarding the passage in question, the sinful nature (in Greek, sarkos, "the flesh," used in this spiritual sense) is not "destroyed" on this side of eternity. In the believer, "The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." But we can have victory as we "walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16-17). Christians who do not do so become "carnal" (sarkikos), worldly, and remain spiritual babies(I Cor. 3:1-3). The Greek word (sarkos) which the NIV translates "sinful nature" can also mean "physical body" (as the NIV admits in a footnote). In other words, sometimes "flesh" is used in the physical sense of the word, depending on the context. I believe this is the intended meaning in First Corinthians 5:5. (The verse is describing a step also mentioned in First Timothy 1:20).

If the man is a believer (which is possible in this case), Satan cannot affect his security in Christ (Rom. 8:38-39). However, he can assault him physically--as he did Job. The thought here is that such physical affliction from Satan may cause this wayward individual to seek after God, and bring him to repentance.

In the local church, the fellowship of believers provides an umbrella of protection for each individual Christian. This comes about through the presence of the Lord in their midst (Matt. 18:20), the purifying work of the Spirit through the Word, and the mutual admonishment and encouragement of Christians. When a member is expelled (vs. 2, 11), he loses that benefit and is more vulnerable to Satan's attacks. This is part of the remedial effect of church discipline. Believers should not pray for him to be kept from this, because it is meant to be corrective (cf. I Jn. 5:16-17, where John speaks of a "sin unto death [i.e. physical death]"). (Paul gives us an exampleof this in First Corinthians 11:27, 30).

Next Month: What is meant by the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:31-32)? And is it possible for a Christian to commit this sin?


1) The Praying Hand
There is a little memory aid using the five fingers of one hand as a guide to what to pray for. You can teach it to others in a few minutes. Each finger becomes a reminder of a certain group that needs our prayers.

The Thumb. When the hands are held palm to palm, in the traditional praying position, the thumb is nearest to you, so begin by praying for those closest to you--family, friends, and perhaps work associates. Prayer for our loved ones is, as C. S. Lewis once said, "a sweet duty."

The First Finger. This is the pointing finger. Pray for those who are serving the Lord and pointing others to Him. This includes pastors and other church workers, missionaries, Bible school staff, and those who serve in other Christian ministries.

The Second Finger. This is the tallest finger. It reminds us to pray for those in leadership and in authority over us. Pray for national, provincial (or state) and local governments. Pray that God will give them the wisdom and courage to uphold what is just and true.

The Third Finger. Surprising to many, this is the weakest finger of all (as a piano teacher can tell you). It should remind us to pray for those who are sick and suffering, those who carry heavy burdens, those who are sorrowing, and so on.

The Fourth Finger. This is the smallest finger, reminding us of where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. By the time we have prayed for those in the first four categories we will have a better perspective on our own needs and can pray for them.

2) Using the Metrical Index
Many standard hymn books, in addition to having an alphabetical listing of each hymn, and other indices, provide a valuable index of the metre of each hymn. This is usually accompanied by an alphabetical listing of the tunes by name. (Not only the words have a name; many times the tunes do as well.) If you are leading a service, you may find this information helpful.

For example, the name of the tune for "The Church's One Foundation" is "Aurelia," and the metre is D. (The "D" stands for doubled.) This tells us each verse of the hymn contains 8 lines of verse (4 x 2), and each line contains 7 or 6 sounded syllables, alternately, as follows:

The Chur-ch's one foun-da-tion =7

Is Je-sus Christ her Lord =6

She is His new cre-a-tion =7

By wa-ter and the Word =6

From heav'n He came and sought her =7

To be His holy bride =6

With His own blood He bought her =7

And for her life He died =6

The metre of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is D. (Count out the syllables and see.)

With that kind of information, it is possible for you to combine a tune with different words, or sing the words to a different tune. Perhaps the words you want to sing have an unfamiliar tune, or one that is difficult to sing. But, knowing the metre, you often can make a switch. It also gives a new feel to old hymns and helps us to appreciate the message all over again. Example: Try using the tune "Aurelia" with the hymn "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded." Both have the metre D, so we know there are the same number of lines and the same number of syllables per line.

A couple of cautions are in order when it comes to switching tunes. 1) Sometimes, you'll find that the em-PHA-sis is not on the right syl-LA-ble! You will have to check that out. 2) The other thing is that the mood of the tune may not fit the words you want to put it with. A bright or martial tune will not likely fit as well with lyrics about the suffering of Christ on the cross (or vice versa).

Sometimes a tune with a slightly different metre will still fit. For instance, consider "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" (the usual tune of which is "Hamburg"). This is a "Long Metre" hymn (LM), all of which use the pattern But it can be sung effectively to the tune "Appalachia" (, if some notes in the line with 9 sounded syllables are sung on the same word. (Try it and see!) Do a bit of experimenting. You may well discover a wonderful combination that will bless your congregation.

3) New on the website is an article called "12 Keys to Good Music, giving you 12 biblical principles to evaluate the music in your life.

4) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

5) Check out a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.


It is critically important for each Christian to have a basic understanding of how to interpret the Scriptures. Before we think about an application (how the passage is significant to us today), we must deal carefully with interpretation (what the passage means, in its context). Each of us must "be diligent to present [himself] approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing [skillfully handling] the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15).

An excellent book on this subject is Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks (father and son). A refreshing approach, easy to follow, with lots of charts and illustrations, as well as exercises for you to try. (Now there are workbooks available as well, and a companion video.) The authors begin by explaining why it is important to study the Bible. Then they take the reader through three key steps: 1) Observation (including "Six Things to Look For"); 2) Interpretation (including "Five Keys to Interpretation"); and 3) Application (with "Four Steps in Application" and more). Recommended!

If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.

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