Michael Boling – Update on Hell Study and a Quick Book Review

A reading goal I set for myself in 2018 is to work through a list of books on the final fate of the wicked. Somewhat in jest, I noted this would involve a lot of time in hell. Well let’s just state that thus far, this has been an enlightening journey and I am beginning to see some of the smoke clearing as it pertains to the biblical approach to this important topic.

Partially to keep myself accountable and partially to provide what I hope to be some salient thoughts along the way, I wanted to provide a quick update on my reading progress. As you can see from the table below, I have completed one book on my list, namely Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism edited by Chris Date, Gregory Stump, and Joshua Anderson. I have also begun reading Dr. Kim Papaioannou’s dissertation titled “Places of Punishment in the Synoptic Gospels”. Additionally, I have started reading a book I did not have on my original list but one that fits nicely into my reading plans, A Consuming Passion: Essays on Hell and Immortality in Honor of Edward Fudge, edited by Christ Date and Ron Highfield.

I was very impressed with Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism. Each submission to this book was well written, well argued, and most importantly, rooted in sound biblical exegesis. The contributors tackle this issue ironically, cogently, and cover all the notable bases such as the theological, biblical, philosophical, and historical arguments for conditional immortality. The scholarship that was presented was impressive. Anyone who believes conditional immortality is some fringe movement not rooted in any way upon sound biblical arguments or devoid of historical support within Christendom will have that viewpoint challenged should they read this helpful book.

It is somewhat pricey given Amazon sells it for $42. With that said, I submit it is well worth the investment, especially if one intends to really dig deep into understanding the merits of the positive case for conditional immortality. I found Rethinking Hell to be a true eye-opener and a resource I will refer to as I continue to dig deeper into the final fate of the wicked. To be honest, the “traditional” view of hell, namely eternal conscious torment, has some definite holes in its argument and the biblical support for that view in my humble opinion is quite weak. I say that as one who for quite some time has been a proponent of the traditional view. As I noted in my previous posts on this topic, my viewpoint has shifted of late in support of conditional immortality mainly because I had admittedly not exposed myself to the totality of the available arguments for the final fate of the wicked. Additionally, my studies on the biblical doctrine of man has revealed how eternal conscious torment does not account well for the fact it is only the righteous that are granted eternal life with the wicked being punished for all eternity with the opposite of life which biblically is the eternal punishment of death.

I am thoroughly enjoying Dr. Papaionnou’s journey through Gehenna and Hades. His work is well written, very informative, and quite relevant to understanding the final fate of the wicked. A Consuming Passion has started off well, although admittedly I am still in the first chapter.

More to come as I continue this journey through what the bible has to say about hell. In the end, I realize I will likely land on the opposite of the popularized view on hell, but so be it. I can only go where Scripture leads in the spirit of the Reformers. After all, the call to sola Scriptura demands adherence to what Scripture says, even it comes into conflict with popular theological positions.

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Michael Boling – The Holy Spirit as Explicated in the Gospel of John




The Gospel of John has long been recognized by scholars as a first rate work of theological acumen largely unequaled by the Synoptic accounts. As noted by theologian and author Andreas Kostenberger, “John’s Gospel towers over the Synoptics as the theological pinnacle of the Gospel tradition.” In keeping with this theological focus, the Apostle John throughout his gospel lucidly outlines Christ’s instructions concerning the roles and attributes of the Holy Spirit (parakletos) largely in keeping with the realized eschatology which permeates his writing. The theological connotations concerning the Holy Spirit contained in John’s Gospel must be interpreted as a unified peroration regarding the necessity of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and the modalities by which the Paraclete serves to glory Christ by assisting the believer in the walk with God.


Other than perhaps an implied mention of the Trinitarian involvement in creation at the forefront of John’s Gospel, the first overt mention of the Holy Spirit is in conjunction with the event of Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist. Indicative of his affinity for the theological especially his repetitive interaction with Old Testament prophecy, the Apostle John denotes several key aspects of the Holy Spirit, in particular, the role of the Spirit in the life of Christ.

The statement in John 1:32 depicting the Spirit descending as a dove “marked him (Jesus) as the Davidic ruler of Isaiah 11:1”, the Servant sent from God outlined in Isaiah 42:1, and finally as the prophet “who announces in Isaiah 61:1, ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.’” The permanent endowment of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is an essential element of this pericope. Additionally, the corresponding elements of Old Testament prophetic passages such as Ezekiel 36:25 clearly aver the “Messianic phenomenon” that was inculcated in particular to John the Baptist as he observed, whether through a vision or the actual descending of a dove the bestowal of the Holy Spirit bestowed. But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – Dry Bones Syndrome: God as the Breath of Life

quotescover-JPG-13 There have been several days of late when I have felt like I was in the Valley of Dry Bones described in Ezekiel 37. Whether due to overwhelming stress at work, the daily grind of home-life, the trials inherent with raising a teenager, the madness of the world around me, or the realization that I continue to remain in a place of spiritual immaturity in many areas of my life, it just seems like things have become a bit dry and arid, both spiritually and physically for that matter.

As I was pondering over this reality, I was reminded of the many times throughout Scripture where life is noted as coming from God, specifically His breath being that which gives life to His creation. If we look back at the Genesis creation account, God spoke and the universe was created. When God formed man from the dust of the ground, He then breathed into man the breath of life and it was then man became living being. Perhaps the starkest example of life being provided is the awesome picture found in Ezekiel 37 where God breathes life into a valley of dry, dusty bones.

So what does this tell us, in particular when we encounter those dry and arid valleys of life? Does it mean we can pick up that self-help book and positively think our way back into the right frame of mind? Last time I checked every day is not Friday. As a working stiff, I have to trudge through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before Friday rolls around on the calendar. What then gets us through these rough patches? There really is only one answer – God and His Word.

God is the source of life, both spiritually and physically. While sin certainly marred all of creation, we are not without hope in this life. This does not mean that every day will be happy go lucky, tra-la-la. We will face hardship and we will encounter times when we would love to just throw up our hands in despair. It is when those times come (and come they will) that we must more than ever turn to God who has promised He will revive our dry bones.

Furthermore, when you are spiritually parched, drink from the well of living water found in the pages of God’s Word. In Isaiah 55:1-3 we are reminded of the following:

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.”

What an awesome deal this is God has provided. It is free of charge, available for the taking and has a guarantee of providing sustenance and quenching your thirst. God is the source of life and in His Word we can drink to our fill and experience life to those dry bones.

If you are like me of late, you may be in a place where you feel like you have been walking through the Sahara Desert with an empty water bottle. Your mouth is parched, your body caked in sweat, and every muscle and bone in your body seems to be stretched to the point of exhaustion. If this is you today, go to God. He will breathe life back into your bones. Go to His Word. He has promised to give life through the God breathed pages of Scripture. Arise my friends and trust in the promise God has made. Be washed anew in the waters of God’s Word. He is the giver of life and even the driest of bones can be restored through the power of His very breath.

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Michael Boling – Keeping Your Lips From Deceit


Psalm 34:13 – Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.

One of those parenting moments you hope never happens but know it will came knocking at our door recently. We discovered that our daughter had been creating a well-planned series of lies to cover up something she should have informed us about but claimed she was too afraid to reveal. As noted in Luke 8:17, noting is hidden that will not be made manifest.

Now as a child, I was well acquainted with the effort that goes into setting up and maintaining a series of lies regardless of the reality that eventually that house of cards would come crashing down. Ultimately, the punishment I received or the disappointed I saw in the eyes of my parents for not being truthful with them far outweighed any consequence I might have received if I had just been honest in the first place. The old saying is very true – “Honesty is the best policy”.

Dealing with the parade of lies that have been revealed when it comes to our daughter will not prove to be an easy feat. With that said, the underlying teaching moment will reside in the value learned from a passage such as Psalm 34:13. As those who claim to be followers of God and who claim to have a desire to be more like our Creator, we must realize am important fact, namely God is always truthful and never lies. In fact, Scripture repeatedly notes that God abhors a lying tongue. It is an abomination to Him.

James 3:5 reminds us “the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles!” More often than not, a lying tongue can burn a relationship with the trust that once existed being destroyed. As a parent, it is important to drive home this truth to our daughter. Allowing a habit of lying to take root is a dangerous road to travel. This is why God commands us to keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit. The word translated deceit in this passage is the Hebrew noun mirmah meaning “treachery”. Why are we to abstain from such things? It is because treachery is a practice and approach of Satan whose main battle plan involves wiles which is best defined as trickery.

Truth and lying/treachery/trickery are polar opposites. The mouth of the believer should not be a place where both reside. Truth should be all that comes from our lips. How do we deal with the temptation to speak lies and treachery? God tells us to “keep” our tongue from evil and deceit. To “keep” means to guard, to keep watch, to preserve, and to set a blockade around. Can we keep our tongues from deceit by our own efforts? Clearly not given the amount of deceit that takes place on a daily basis. To keep is a constant state of readiness that can only take place by exercising our spiritual muscles through the work of the Holy Spirit. One must associate themselves with those who speak truth. One must inculcate truth into every fiber of their being. Speaking truth must be practiced in order for those aforementioned spiritual muscles to take shape.
To stand against the wiles of the devil, we must constantly don the full armor of God. Our waist is to be girded with truth. Why? Perhaps so we will not be caught with our pants down when our house of cards (i.e. parade of lies) comes crashing down.

Teaching these truths to our teenage daughter is of course imperative, but it is a lesson I humbly admit I need to learn myself. Lying is all too easy, but as a child of God, I must desire truth over lies.

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Michael Boling – What Happens When We Die: “Dying You Shall Die”

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

“Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4)

One might wonder what these verses have to do with the topic of what happens when you die outside of the use of the word die in both passages. As we build on the biblical evidence for how man was created by God, the introduction of the issue of sin and its impact on man is the next important issue to examine. Thus, the above passages speak volumes in understanding the impact of sin and the connection to what happens when we die.

Taken at face value in its typical English translation, one would assume God meant that if man partook of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, immediate physical death would ensue. In fact, that face value style interpretation has resulted in biblical skeptics scoffing at Scripture. After all, Genesis 2:17 states “you shall surely die.” When we examine the specifics of the Hebrew terms used in Genesis 2:16-17, it becomes clear the punishment God noted would happen should man disobey.

The meaning of the Hebrew word die (muwth) means to die. With that said, questions rightly can be asked as to what kind of death would ensure and if physical death was the focus, why then did Adam and Eve not immediately keel over and die the moment they disobeyed God.

Some, perhaps attempting to side step these questions, have stated that since Adam and Eve did not immediately experience physical death the moment they sinned, that has to mean God was speaking of merely spiritual death given sin creates a spiritual separation between a holy God and sinful humanity. Spiritual death is certainly an undeniable aspect of the impact of sin. After all, the movement of Scripture is one towards dealing with this in problem with the end result being a full restoration of relationship between God and man.

This is not the full biblical and theological picture; however, as death also speaks to more than physical separation between God and man. If we dig into the context and in particular the presentation of words in the Hebrew, the answer to this puzzle comes into clear focus.

There is a specific manner in which die (muwth) is presented. In our English translations, this verb construct is not noticeable. However, in the Hebrew, there is a double verb used. This type of construct identifies a process, an immediate reality that will come to finality at a future time. The actual phrase should read “dying you shall die”. We can now begin to see that death was not commanded to be an immediate dropping dead event. Conversely, death would be a process that would eventually ensue in a physical death event when man would return to the dust from whence they came and the breath of life given to them by God to allow them to be a living being would return to God.

We see this death process noted elsewhere in Scripture. For instance Romans 8:22 states “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” Creation did not immediately wither up and pass away when Adam and Eve sinned. Instead, the universe is slowly but surely decaying, indicative of the groaning noted by Paul in Romans 8:22. We also note in an everyday sense the reality of growing old and dying. This death and decay process is a result of sin and is rooted in God’s command that dying you shall die.

The twisting of God’s command by the Serpent (nachash) now begins to make sense. Once again we have to look at the construct of the Hebrew verb translated as die (muwth) as used by the Serpent. Instead of repeating the “dying you shall die” truth stated by God, instead a single verb is used. A small yet important twist that denied this physical death process. The lie that was presented was that physical death would not ensue with sin. Instead, man would become like God. Now exactly what is meant by becoming like elohims (gods) is a discussion for another day; however, the intent is quite clear, namely a subtle twist of God’s command which both Adam and Eve fell for resulting in the true result of sin taking place, the process of physical death and of course the reality of spiritual separation from God.

Some may ask why this has any level of importance. Why should anyone pay attention to Hebrew verb constructs? For starters, the importance of the first few chapters of Genesis and how they inform our understanding of the remainder of Scripture. Thus having a proper grasp of the result of sin and the reality that death and decay are a result of sin, provides us the basis to understand the message of the gospel. The glorious message of the gospel is far more than getting saved so you can to go heaven. The message of the gospel is the promise of redemption, the fixing of the sin and death problem. What is the core of the sin and death problem? It is both physical and spiritual death. The promise of the Messiah our Redeemer is rooted in the fact his sacrifice on the cross served as atonement for sin to deal with the spiritual death and relationship problem. Furthermore, his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection provides us with the glorious promise that the physical death that came as a result of sin would also be dealt with when Messiah returns. Certainly death will come to us all unless we are alive when he returns; however, we know death ultimately has no sting for the believer. The dying you shall die will one day be replaced with eternal life, the return to the Garden.

Here in the first two chapters of Genesis we find yet again a very important theological concept that is further unpacked and presented over and over in the rest of Scripture. Sin resulted in physical and spiritual separation between God and man. God promised that the seed of the woman would triumph over the seed of the Serpent. That promise took place on the cross and will come to its ultimate and final promise when Messiah returns and forever deals with the sin and death problem for all eternity. Noting the seeds planted in the Garden in these formative chapters of Genesis helps us understand what we are looking forward to when we return to that Garden in eternity future.

Additionally, as it relates to what happens when we die, we can make a connection between these formative chapters of Scripture and the words of Paul in Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” As God declared in Genesis 2, the wages of sin is indeed death – physical death. Paul contrasts the wages of sin with the promise of eternal life given to the righteous.

The question as to when that eternal life is revealed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57:

“Now I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Notice the timing of when death is said to no longer have its sting. It is at the Parousia, the second coming of the Messiah. It is then what was written by Isaiah will be fulfilled in full, namely that “God will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8).

Also notice that Paul states that we will not all sleep, but we will be changed. Again, the awakening from this sleep (a biblical euphemism for the dead) and the changing from mortal to immortality will not occur until the second coming of the Messiah. Until then, the righteous have confidence in Romans 6:23.

We will all face the consequences of the first death – the death of the physical body, the return of the physical body to the dust of the earth and the breath of life returning to God from where it comes (Eccl. 12:7). Praise to God that is not the end of the story as death will meet its eternal end when Messiah returns.

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Michael Boling – Apologetics in the Home (Deut. 6:6-9)


“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9)

As a parent, I am keenly reminded each and every day of the battle that wages for the hearts and minds of children. Add to that being the parent of an adopted child and you have an even greater battle taking place. In the day to day routine, it seems at least in my home that we easily forget one of the fundamental keys to parenting, something God has commanded parents to be about doing at all times with their children. That key to effective parenting revolves around the teaching and implementation of God’s word at all times and in all places.

In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God commands parents to do a number of things. Before we examine what He commanded, it is important to take a quick step back to grasp where Israel was at when God spoke these words and what they were about to embark upon. The children of Israel were about ready to enter the Promised Land. Before they stepped foot into the land of promise, God reminded Israel of what He had done on their behalf, how He had delivered them from bondage, and moreover, He reminded them once again of the commands He had given them to live by.

Thus, the words God is referring to in Deut. 6:6 are the sets of commands He gave to Israel on how they were to love Him and love others. These commands were not just a onetime declaration that could be heard and then forgotten or lost upon later generations. To ensure the constant focus and emphasis on these instructions, God commanded parents to constantly share these truths with their children.

God is quite clear on how He wants this instruction to take place. First, He gives the command for parents to diligently teach these things. This phrase “teach them diligently” by no means reflects a half hearted approach or attitude. The word translated as teach is the Hebrew verb shanan which means “to inculcate anything on any one.” Now for those not familiar with inculcate means, that words connotes the concept of hammering something. Perhaps a good way to think about this activity is in relation to hammering a nail into a piece of wood. Unless you are Popeye the Sailor Man, it is highly unlikely you will be able with one smack of the hammer to drive that nail flush into the wood. It takes repetition and it requires hitting that nail exactly on the head. Furthermore, it requires hitting that nail in the same spot over and over, driving that nail into the wood. This same concept can be related to what God is commanding parents in Deut. 6:7. He expects parents to drive home the word of God at all times with great zeal and purpose.

The next important point to note is God expects parents to start this instruction with their children. Do not wait until your kids are teenagers to start mentioning the word of God. Start young and start often. Why? Proverbs 22:6 promises, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” When you plant the seeds of Scripture deep in the heart of a child when they are young, God’s word takes root in their life. While it is no guarantee they will follow after God when they grow to adulthood, studies have revealed “that when both parents were faithful and active in the church, 93 percent of their children remained faithful.”1

The next command God gives is for parents to “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.” This statement covers every element of one’s daily activities and possible locations. Now talking is far more than just a passing conversation. The word translated as talk is the Hebrew verb dabar which means “to speak, declare, converse, command, promise, warn, threaten, sing” with the underlying idea of leading and guiding as a shepherd would his flocks being the primary emphasis. This means parents are to shepherd their children by using the word of God as the shepherd’s crook, keeping them on the straight and narrow path. This takes place at home, anywhere outside the home regardless of whether you are sitting down or standing up. Basically God is saying – “Parents. At all times and in all places instruct your children in My word.”

As if this was not clear enough, God further notes “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Binding God’s commands on your hands and your eyes signifies that the truth of His word controls your actions and thoughts. Writing God’s word on the doorposts of your house and on your gates reminds parents of the need for Scripture to define how their home is ran and how it functions.

How then are parents to be able to follow these clear commands of the Lord? Being able to instruct your children in the ways of God and in His holy word requires the parent to be faithful in their own bible study and in prayer. It will take preparation, serious earnest preparation with God’s word sinking into the fabric of your own heart before you can then pour out the refreshing and cleansing water of God’s word into the lives of your children. This means that parents must hammer home God’s word into their own lives, setting the example of what diligent bible study looks like. This means that parents must live out in their own words and actions the truth of Scripture.

This is not easy and breaking lazy habits will not happen overnight. With that said, just as exercising your physical muscles takes diligence, practice, and know how, so to exercising your spiritual muscles will require action, diligence, practice, and know how so you can in turn train your children how to exercise their spiritual muscles so they can instruct their children. It is high time parents burn some spiritual fat, get a biblical chiropractic check-up and get to work following God’s clear command found in Deut. 6:6-9. Swinging that biblical hammer to drive home the truth of Scripture takes a lot of work and there is no denying that one bit. There is also no denying the benefits that will occur for those parents who are obedient to this command.

It is time parents stop abdicating their God ordained and commanded responsibility to Sunday School and Youth Group leaders to train their children in the ways of God. While they play a part, the primary responsibility rests in the lap of the parents.

Hammer it home parents!

  1. http://www.gotquestions.org/falling-away.html#ixzz3H0IsZJHG []
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Michael Boling – What it Means to “Think on These Things”


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

I would venture to say that most believers are familiar with Philippians 4:8. In fact, it is likely a verse that comes to our minds, at least on a momentary basis, when ungodly thoughts rear their ugly head. But do we really grasp what it means to “think about these things”? Furthermore, what are these things that should be at the constant forefront of our thoughts and for that matter, our actions? Finally, what does it look like in a practical sense to be thinking on things above? I would like to address these three important questions in this post.

Defining “think about these things”

A great place to start when trying to understand what a word means is the dictionary. Now we must remember that behind the English translations we read is the original language in which the passage was penned. In the case of Philippians 4:8, we need to take a look at what the Greek word for “think” actually means. Think is the Greek verb logizomai meaning “to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on.” Gerald Hawthorne notes the Apostle Paul has asked the Church at Philippi (and by extension us as well) “continuously to focus their minds on these things, to give full critical attention to them, and so to reflect carefully upon them with an action-provoking kind of meditation. It was not his desire to ask them merely to think about such noble matters without putting them into practice in their lives.”[1]

We can quickly see that to “think on these things” requires more than just a passing thought or lip service. It demands active and continuous meditation, not the type of meditation where thought never quite translates into action. Conversely, this type of meditation requires the implementation of what is being pondered into every aspect of daily life. The truth of what we should be thinking about must make a difference in our speech, thoughts, desires, actions, ultimately leading to positive and lasting spiritual growth.

What is it We Should be Thinking About?

Now that we have a solid understanding of what it means to “think on these things”, we have to now take a look at and define what we are to be thinking on in the first place. The Apostle Paul assuredly did not ask the Church at Philippi to think on whatever floated their proverbial boat. We are provided with the parameters that form the fence line if you will for where are thoughts should be focused. Let’s take some time to examine what Paul tells us to think upon.

Whatever is true: There is little mystery to the definition of the Greek adjective alēthēs which is translated in English as true. It simply means true. With that said, there is the aspect of this word that speaks to what it means to think on whatever is true. Alēthēs also has an action element to its definition noting the need to love and speak the truth or to be truthful. Homer Kent states that true “has the sense of valid, reliable, and honest – the opposite of false.”[2] Anything that even remotely consists of falsehood or that has the traits of dishonesty are the complete opposite of truth and thus should not be what we dwell on nor should they find they way into our thoughts or actions.

Whatever is honorable: Next Paul notes that whatever is honorable should be what we think upon. Honorable, sometimes translated as noble or honest, is the Greek adjective semnos meaning something that is venerated for its character. Donald Fee suggests that in this passage, Paul is noting that which is worthy of respect.[3] Certainly there are many men and women of God who have noteworthy character, people in the body of Christ who demonstrate more often than not a dedication to the things of God. However, there is only One whose character is completely reputable. There is only One who is the very definition of holiness and righteousness and that is God. To think godly things is to seek after that which pleases God. It is to be holy as He is holy. That is a might task; however, it must be the goal of every thought and deed of the believer.

Whatever is just: This idea of justice finds its root in the same word from which righteousness is derived, namely the Greek adjective dikaios That which is just aligns itself with the commands of God revealed in Scripture. In fact to be righteous, demands adherence to God’s perfect law. This is yet another lofty goal but a necessary one. Furthermore, to think on whatever is just requires the believer to read, understand, and put into practice God’s commands for righteous living provided in His Word. Only that which is worthy of the approval of God should be that which we think upon. Anything outside that framework is sin.

Whatever is pure: Purity connotes the idea of being without blemish, spot, or wrinkle. The Greek adjective hagnos means pure from every fault; immaculate. Now we must admit that our thoughts are often on that which could rightly be considered filthy. Even the slightest speck of dust in our thought life and in our actions is considered filthy in the eyes of God. This is especially true given hagnos speaks to the idea of moral purity. In an age where all manner of sexual immorality is championed, we must dedicate ourselves to seeking after moral purity as outlined in God’s Word.

Whatever is lovely: Loveliness as used in this passage means something very specific. It is not whatever we choose loveliness to mean. That which is lovely is that which pleases God. The Greek adjective used in this verse that is translated as lovely is prosphilēs meaning pleasing or acceptable. This word has a very strict application to it. Hawthorne aptly notes “It has as its fundamental meaning “that which calls forth love”…Thus the Christian’s mind is to be set on things that elicit from others not bitterness and hostility, but admiration and affection.”[4] This type of action is what Paul described in Ephesians 4:29: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Whatever is commendable: Something that is commendable is worthy of praise. Kent notes that commendable or admirable as it is often translated suggests “what is praiseworthy, attractive, and what rings true to the highest standards.”[5] As with the other virtues listed by Paul in this passage, the only standard that matters is Gods as noted in His word.

How to “Think on these things”

As noted earlier, thinking in the sense Paul exhorts is far more than a passing thought or fancy. It involves a clear element of thought constantly borne into action which then shapes every aspect of our lives. We have discovered in our analysis of the things Paul says we are to think upon that each and every thing mentioned by Paul is related to nothing short of spiritual excellence. Anything short of such excellence falls short of what God expects from His people.

Does this mean that we will achieve such a level of holiness in this life or for that matter that we can attain a life of complete devotion to “these things” on our own effort? The response to both questions is absolutely not. In this life we will continue to battle with sin and with those things that grab our focus and attention away from the things above. There is no amount of personal effort that can lead to a life lived according to God’s perfect standard. What then are we to do given the pursuit of holiness remains God’s expectation of His people?

1. Have a passion for God’s Word. Meditating, reading, studying, and most importantly applying the truths found therein, is a fundamental key to uprooting and mortifying sin in our lives. As we engage in persistent and consistent study of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit takes his pick ax and starts to dig out those sinful desires which so easily entangle us, replacing those desires with a passion for the very things Paul notes in Philippians 4:8.

2. Devote yourself to a life of prayer. In Colossians 4:2, Paul exhorts believers to “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Praying without ceasing is a life lived in constant communion with God. An active prayer life focuses our attention on what God would have us do rather than the clamor and selfish desires of the world around us. Prayer is more than sending a few words heavenward at the dinner table and then moving on with life. Prayer is communication, a two way conversation between you and God. This means that prayer involves active listening on our part, letting our requests be made known to God and then doing what Paul noted in Colossians 4:2 – watching and being thankful.

3. Surround yourself with godly people. The old saying “bad company corrupts good morals” is as true today as it was the day it was penned. If you are not involved in a local body of believers, now is the time to find a place where God would have you establish roots. Part of how we spur one another towards love and good deeds is by not forsaking gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). God never intended the Christian life to be lived in isolation from fellow believers. The very sense of the people of God being called a body is rooted in the reality that we all play an important part in this thing called the Church. We need each other so that we may pray for one another, study God’s word together, and to come along side our fellow believers so that we may together strive to do that which pleases God and brings Him glory and honor.

4. Put on the new self. Finally, we must put on the new self. Paul exhorts us to do this in Colossians 3:1-3 – “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Cast off the old man with its fleshly desires and put on the new man, devoted to things above. This is a hallmark of a mature believer who is growing in the grace of God. By devoting yourself to the Word of God, living a life of prayer, and connecting with godly people within the body of Christ, we can begin to see the Holy Spirit work in our lives, ripping out that cantankerous old man and replacing it with a passion for truth. The new self is not a mask. It is a lifestyle that reveals a life devoted to God.

Let us think on these things not out of mere ritual or to appear holy, but rather out of a heart of love for God in thanksgiving for what He has done for us. Set your mind on these things!


[1] Gerald Hawthorne, Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians (Waco: Word Books, 1983), 188.
[2] Homer A. Kent, Jr. “Commentary on Philippians” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.11: Ephesians through Philemon. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 152.
[3] Donald Fee, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Philippians (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1999), 179.
[4] Hawthorne, 188.
[5] Kent, 152.

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Michael Boling – What Happens When You Die: Was Man Created a Living Soul or a Living Being?

Now that we have established the stark difference between the Greek and Hebrew/biblical understanding of the nature of man, we can begin to examine what God outlines for us in Scripture regarding this doctrine. As with anything in Scripture, in particular when it comes to the biblical doctrine of man, any discussion on this topic must begin in Genesis.

We are told in Genesis how God made man:

“And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:2-27)

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)

We have some basic facts provided to us in these passages. First, God made man in His image, giving man dominion over creation. Secondly, and perhaps most germane to this conversation is man was formed from the dust of the ground and was given life by God breathing into man the breath of life. When and only when God breathed into man the breath of life, man became something.

Now it is this something that forms much of the crux of the “what happens when you die” debate. Some translations (such as the KJV which I quoted above), state “man became a living soul”. Others translate this portion of Genesis 2:7 as “man became a living being”. What if any difference exists between the terms soul and being? Actually, at least in how the term soul is typically applied in much of today’s theology, there is a significant difference between what many understand how to define soul and what the biblical definition actually provides.

Before we dive into the establishment of a foundational understanding of the term soul, we must back up a second and take a look at the terms “breathed” and “breath”. In doing so, we will identify what allowed man to become a living soul/being.

God breathed into man the breath of life. These are important terms to understand, in particular as they are presented from the Hebraic/biblical mindset. It is common knowledge that in order for one to be alive, they have to be breathing. Stop breathing and you are quite frankly dead. Even if assisted breathing devices are what is allowing an individual to breath, it is still the process of breathing (albeit through a machine), that keeps the person alive.

In Genesis, we see God forming man from the dust of the earth (an important element we will return to later in our study). Then God breathes into man which animates the created body. The word translated as “breathed” is the Hebrew verb naphach, meaning “to blow out”, in this case air. God breathed into man something very specific – the breath of life. The word translated as “breath is the Hebrew noun nĕshamah, meaning breath. As noted by C. Ryder Smith, “As the text in Genesis implies, it is something from outside that God gives to man. Man is not neshamah, but has it.”[1] Thus, because man has the breath of life given by God, man then becomes something.

What does Genesis state man became once God breathed into man the breath of life? Man became what is noted in Hebrew as nephesh chayyah (living being). It is the term often translated as “soul” that becomes the source of debate if you will. What is a nephesh? Is it a soul in the idea of something that is or can become removed from the physical body? Or does nephesh define the entirety of what makes up a man? This is where we begin to note the important differences between Greek and Hebrew/biblical thought in the pages of Scripture.

In the Hebraic/biblical mindset and definition of terms, nephesh means something substantially different. Jewish scholar Neil Gillman saliently notes the following:

“In Greek thought, the soul is a distinctive entity which preexists the life of the person, enters the body at birth, separates from the body at death and continues to exist in some supernal realm.

The Bible, in contrast, portrays each human as a single entity, clothed in clay-life flesh which is animated or vivified by a life-giving spark or impulse variously called ruah, nefesh, neshamah, or nishmat hayyim.

In the later tradition, these terms came to be understood as synonymous with the Greek “soul.” But this identification is not in the Bible. The term “nefesh” signifies the neck or the throat (as in Psalm 69:2), or the breath (that passes through the throat, as in Job 41:13), or the life-blood (as in Leviticus (17:10-11). By extension, it signifies a living human being since it refers to the two characteristics that make a person alive: Breath and blood. When Exodus 1:5 numbers Jacob’s progeny as “seventy nefesh,” it means simply seventy persons, not seventy disembodied “souls.”[2]

Man became something when God breathed into man the breath of life. It is clear the correct definitely is not that a disembodied soul was placed into the physical body of man that resulted in man having life. Such a position is entirely a pagan Greek Platonic notion. Scripture teaches that God gave man (and by extension all of humanity from that point forward) the break of life and that breathe of life results in man as a living being. Nephesh represents the entirety of man. The idea of a soul that somehow is able to be separate at any point from the physical body is a concept foreign to the Hebraic/biblical position found in Scripture, most notably in the creation story found in Genesis.

Life and the ability to main life comes from God. It is a gift to us from the Creator. It is that breathe of life which makes us a living being.
Do we have a soul or are we a soul? According to Genesis 2:7, we are a living being. Nephesh refers to man as a living person, not a physical body that has a soul that can depart somewhere upon death. It is high time we recognize the negative influence of Greek pagan philosophy on our understanding of the nature of man. This process begins with recognizing how God created man as outlined in Genesis 1-2.


[1] C. Ryder Smith, The Bible Doctrine of Man (Eugene: WIPF and Stock, 2009), 6.
[2] Neil Gillman, The Death of Death (Woodstock: Jewish Lights, 1997), 76.

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Michael Boling – Time to Get Back to Reading

Books. Ever since I was a child, I have loved reading. With that said, there have been times when I have frankly been burnt out by reading. Perhaps it is due to changing reading interests, a busy schedule, or the pressure to keep up with the steady flow of review copies from publishers. I admit for what is likely a combination of those reasons, I took an extended break over the past few months from reading and doing book reviews. In fact, I cleaned out a good portion of my personal library. Much of what went bye-bye were titles I read once and knew I would not return to either as a resource or for a second go around. Some books while good and interesting are honestly only good for a once through read. Plus we needed the space in the basement for other things.

Lately, I have been feeling the reading bug biting once again. It is always a challenge when you have a backlog of books to read as to what to choose first. There is one non-theological title I have been slowly but surely reading on the subject of interracial baseball prior to the depression. One of my favorite baseball players, Bob Feller, is one of the subjects of this book. It has been quite the fascinating read thus far. This particular books seems like a good choice as any with which to pick up the pace with and complete here in the next week. If anything, that will afford some time to choose the next title. Maybe I will make it easy on myself and grab the next book in the stack o’ stuff. We shall see what happens. Once I decide on the next set of books, I will be sure to share what they are and why I selected those titles.

So back to reading I go and with it, likely a steady (or at least steadier) stream of book reviews and here is to hoping the reading bug turns into an infection, one I do not recover from for a bit.

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Michael Boling – The Wiles of the Devil: What is a Wile Anyway?


“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” (Eph. 6:11)

This is a rather familiar passage of Scripture as it begins the section of the Apostle Paul’s instructions on what it looks like to put on the full armor of God. Perhaps we often overlook what it is we are arming ourselves against. Clearly we are donning this armor to do battle, otherwise what would be the point of such an effort? We know who the enemy is as Paul states the one we do battle with is the devil. With that said, Paul notes something particular about how the devil wages war – the wiles of the devil.

Now this word wiles is one not typically used in everyday conversation. Those who used to watch the Looney Tunes cartoons might remember a character called Wile E. Coyote. He was famous for hatching a variety of ploys by which he would most assuredly capture the elusive roadrunner – courtesy of those fine folks at the Acme Corporation of course. Unfortunately for Wile E. Coyote, regardless of how elaborate his scheme was he could never seem to catch his prey.

We can learn a bit about what the term wiles means from the actions of Wile E. Coyote. First and foremost, this cartoon character used well planned albeit poorly executed trickery. His underlying plan was to try and catch the roadrunner unawares. This connotes the idea of a methodology which in fact is exactly what the Greek noun methodeia that is translated as wiles means. The term is defined as “cunning arts, deceit, craft, trickery.”

The devil is a bit more competent than Wile E. Coyote; however, the same approach taken to lure the roadrunner is what our enemy uses in his attempts to trick humanity. Mind you the devil will not use rocket powered roller skates nor will he paint a tunnel on the face of a cliff face. His wiles are far more thought out and cunning. Think back to the Garden of Eden and the encounter between the devil and Eve. There was no boulder perched on the top of a mountain ready to be unleashed on Eve as she walked below. What took place was quite simply and devastatingly for us all a carefully planned and executed rewording of God’s statement to Adam and Eve. That was all it was – a few words switched around and left out, the very definition of cunning, deceit, and trickery.

It seems we are often so focused on looking for the full frontal assault of the enemy that we are caught unawares by his true wiles. Those sneak attacks are the ones that arguably get us in the most trouble. The “did God really say that” approach is one of the enemies most well-honed attack strategies. It is the proverbial trip wire we stumble over. Rest assured the enemy will employ a frontal assault, but it seems such attacks are intended to make us forget about his attempt to sneakily direct his focus on our rear guard.

This is why Paul noted the necessity of constantly donning the full armor of God. Each piece of armor protects us from the enemy’s wiles so that we may be able to stand. Forget a piece of armor and those wiles will more often than not find their mark through deceit and trickery. However, a believer who is cognizant of the need to put on the whole armor of God is promised they will be able to not only stand against those wiles, but they will also be able to gain ground against the enemy through the power of God working in their life.

This is spiritual warfare 101, so vigilantly and diligently be on the lookout for all the devil’s subtle wiles and by all means don the full armor of God. Our enemy is clever, but God has made known to us the devil’s playbook. Those who root themselves in the Word of God will be able to identify the wiles of the devil and respond by wielding the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

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