Ask a Pastor Ep. 50 - Bible Accuracy, Prayer for the President, After Death

Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.

This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Life Stage Pastor, George Palombo, about how accurate the Bible is when recording historical events, David Platt's prayer for President Trump, and what happens to us after we die.

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Kurt Bjorklund: Hi, welcome. Today on Ask A Pastor I'm joined by George Palombo, and we are going to talk about several questions that different people have sent along to us on this podcast or different ways that you can have it distributed. And if you have questions you can send them to, we'd love to address them. So George, welcome.

George Palombo: Good morning.

Kurt Bjorklund: George serves as one of our life stage pastors at our Wexford campus, and is engaged in many important things around Orchard Hills. So here's the first question, and this deals with biblical accuracy. So this person asks the question, "My question is maybe more of a technical question about the Bible than a larger principle. In Judges 16:5 it states, "The ruler of the Philistines went to her and said, 'See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how he can overpower him so that we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you 1100 shekels of silver.'"

Kurt Bjorklund: Then the question says, "How does the writer of the book of Judges know that the Philistines said in a private meeting? How would the writer have obtained that information? I don't think Delilah would have voluntarily given this information up to the writer of Judges. This is like me saying, I know exactly what my enemies discuss even though I'm nowhere near the event. To put it in a sports teams analogy, it's like the coach of Team A saying, 'I know exactly what Team B coach is telling them,' or his opponents in the locker room at halftime. I trust the Bible but verses like this seem concocted to me."

Kurt Bjorklund: So, George.

George Palombo: Wow, that is an exhaustive, exhausting question, for sure.

Kurt Bjorklund: Exhausting, yes.

George Palombo: I would say, the first thing, and I'm going to even look at the question again while we... There are a couple of things that stand out to me in there, and I think the first one is that there's a fallacy built into the question, there's a negative question inside of the question that implies that we can't know. And so I think when we read the scriptures, as well as any other literature, we need to be really careful that we don't ask questions of the scriptures and make a negative comment and answer the question negatively before we dig into the actual content. And I think there's an implication there that we can't know that Delilah, or wouldn't know that Delilah would never have given that information up. So that was the first thing that stuck out to me.

George Palombo: And I do think that based on the story, I mean this was a story that had a lot of intrigue and a lot of drama, and I think Delilah is probably a pretty normal human being, in that when she saw the outcomes of what happened as a result of the conniving and drama that she created, that she very well may have repented and would perhaps been interviewed by someone at that time and perhaps had given that answer.

Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. So what you would say is, it's possible that there's a very human explanation for that text, rather than some kind of divine supernatural knowledge, or that it was a concocted piece of literature for the evidence of how that was read.

George Palombo: I would say that it is possible that it was something divinely given to someone, the writer of that text, but that also that Delilah may have repented later on, and when questioned, since guilt, and I mean, she was normal human being, she was a wealthy woman to begin with, so eventually the money that was given to her probably ran out and you know. If this was a guy that loved her, and I think she did understand that he loved her deeply, that there would be normal guilt and normal remorse, and then on the backend of such a huge drama, of the Temple of Dagon being pulled down, that would have been a big deal.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well, the other thing that at least occurs to me is that when the biblical texts are written, they're not written in real time. They're written afterward, looking back, at least the Old Testament, in these kinds of events. So in other words, somebody lived through it generally or heard it reported and then told the story.

George Palombo: Sure.

Kurt Bjorklund: So it would be, for example, like me saying, "Hey, last week George and I had this conversation and this happened." Well, what would happen is, over a week's time, maybe new information would come to light through a variety of sources that would then allow me to go back and say, "Well, this happened, but here's what George was thinking." Because now I know this based on some other new information. And so it seems to me that it could be a very normal way to record something after the fact that happened, that they're writing as if it happened here, but they're writing after the fact.

Kurt Bjorklund: And I think that's just sometimes, the most plausible, obvious answer might actually be the best answer. And that might be in this case.

George Palombo: I would even say that I think it's easy for us to discount the value of oral transmission, back in those days, as opposed to... We're used to picking up our iPhone and this stuff's at our fingertips. Oral transmission was a big deal before printing presses and that kind of thing.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well, and even think about the news stories that we hear all the time. You hear something about, "Oh, this happened," and then there's all kinds of speculation, and then sooner or later all of a sudden outcomes a piece of information that makes sense of everything, where you say, "Oh, this is what happened." And again, this seems like this could very easily be that kind of a situation.

George Palombo: And I would guess too that there were plenty of interviewers who were available to...

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah. Good. All right. So you recently concluded a politics class with a group of people who came together just to talk about some political issues. So this is a political question. So we thought being that you just led that class, that you would be the right person for this. So this is, "What are your thoughts on David Platt's prayer for president Trump? The reaction of those in his church and what the Christian community has said after the fact, and the response to all of it." So we're going to just play David Platt's prayer. President Trump showed up at a church in Washington, D.C., it's a large church there. And the pastor invited Donald Trump on stage, prayed for him, to which people in his church, several said he shouldn't have done it, were upset with the prayer, were upset with the content of the prayer, the fact that he prayed it all. And then there were others who got upset with people being upset. So here's the prayer and then we'll talk about it.

David Platt: Oh God, we praise you as a one universal King overall. You are our leader and our Lord and we worship you. There is one God and one savior and it's you and your name is Jesus. And we exalt you, Jesus. And we know we need your mercy. We need your grace. We need your help. We need your wisdom in our country. And so we stand right now on behalf of our president and we pray for your grace and your mercy and your wisdom upon him. God, we pray that he would know how much you love him, so much that you sent Jesus to die for his sins, our sins. So we pray that he would look to you, that he would trust in you, that he would lean on you, that he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, and good for righteousness, and good for equity, every good path.

David Platt: Lord, we pray that you would give him all the grace he needs to govern in ways that we just saw in 1 Timothy chapter two that lead to peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. God, we pray for your blessing in that way upon his family. We pray that you'd give them strength. We pray that would give them clarity, wisdom, wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction. Please, oh, God give him wisdom and help him to lead our country alongside other leaders. We pray today for leaders in Congress and pray for leaders in courts, we pray for leaders at national and state levels. Please, oh, God, help us to look to you, help us to trust in your word, help us to seek your wisdom and live in ways that reflect your love and your grace, your righteousness, and your justice. We pray for your blessings on our president toward that end. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Kurt Bjorklund: All right, so George, what would you make of all of that and how would you encourage a Christian person to think about that?

George Palombo: Well, we know that politics are a hotly debated topic. I think we can take anything we want, and before we even talk about the prayer, but I think we can take any conversation and turn it in a direction that we would like to see it go. So we bring our preconceived notions about somebody's thoughts, about how they prayed for this person, or whether they should have prayed for that person. And politics and religion are the bane of human existence. Don't talk about those things at parties. Stay in the shallow end of the pool, kind of thing. So I think, after having heard that prayer, I'm not even a huge fan of David Platt, but when I heard the prayer and I read the prayer and I saw the controversy, I thought, "Oh my goodness, here is a religious leader who brought a political figurehead, the most prominent one in our country and prayed are really well thought out biblically based prayer that included the Gospel in it." I mean my knee jerk response was, "I thought this was awesome."

Kurt Bjorklund: So what would you say to the people who say, "President Trump has been dishonest? He's been disingenuous. He has been a player with women." Even recently there was something that came out that if true would certainly be discrediting. So how do you hold this person up and in any way give honor or deference to this person? I mean, that seemed to be a lot of the pushback wasn't really so much that, "Oh, this prayer was awful." It was just the fact that he would even acknowledge President Trump's presence and pray for him.

George Palombo: My short answer would be, all the more reason to pray for him. Here's a man who is in a position to lead our country for good or for bad, and if he is guilty of all of those things, or even none of them, he is just like the rest of us, he's a sinner. And to put him on a platform where it didn't seem to me that David Platt in any way, shape or form, was praying that he'll win the next election, or that the people in his family would get more money and they would become wealthier or more prominent, or their book sales would go up, or anything like that. He simply is praying for him as a leader. And if I'm not mistaken, inside the prayer, David Platt does mention not only Donald Trump, but any leader, any political leader who is in a place that has authority.

Kurt Bjorklund: It's actually a biblical idea to pray for people in power. And that includes political people. And presumably that doesn't just mean private prayer, but from time to time a public prayer offered in churches for people in power. And I've always believed that that means both people that you respect and like their positions and people you don't respect and don't like their positions. Meaning if you lean to the right and there's a Democrat in power who you don't care for or care for their views, you should probably pray for them. And if you lean left and there's a Republican in power that you don't care for their views or them personally, you should probably pray for them, as well as people that you agree with. And I think the challenge has become that some people can't see that there can be disagreement among Christians any longer about political views or candidates and have tend to see things as monolithic.

Kurt Bjorklund: I mean, I've heard people say things along the lines of, "If you support this candidate, then that means that you don't understand or believe in the God of the Bible," or those kinds of statements. And while there are certainly certain single issues that can be flashpoint issues that call into question the wisdom of supporting a candidate, it seems like that polarization of takes creates a situation where people can be upset about a generic, and generic isn't the right word, but a a nonpartisan prayer for a political leader. And when I use the word generic, I was thinking nonpartisan, it was not a generic prayer, but it was a nonpartisan prayer. But for some people that's akin to support, therefore offensive.

George Palombo: Yeah, I think them just seeing him up there was just too much for them to see, like you said earlier, that they had struggles. I know that, I did a little reading this weekend, even the Book of Common Prayer has prayers that are in there that are for people in authority, that we pray for our governors and our Congress people, our senators, because it's right to lift them up before the Lord, that the Lord would put his hand upon them and mark their way out.

Kurt Bjorklund: So I mentioned that you have just completed this politics class this summer. What's been your biggest takeaway from just hearing people discuss political issues in the context of a Christian faith?

George Palombo: That of course there's division even amongst believers. You and I have even had the conversation that we need to be careful, I think, when we talk about political issues, because we are all on a continuum of growth, spiritual growth, intellectual growth, we should be open when new information comes in for good or for bad, that we ought to be honest and take a hard, honest look at how we arrive at truth. So those are stumbling blocks for people. But all in all, people have been pretty gracious and pretty humble. That's good to see, especially in the church context, because those are such important issues.

Kurt Bjorklund: It seems like there's two opposite mistakes that churches make on this, in my estimation. One is, they become so political that if you walk through the doors of the church, you're hit with political issues. Even if the take of the church is right, that the message of the churches is, "We're this, we're that. You should be this or that." Rather than the gospel.

George Palombo: Yes.

Kurt Bjorklund: And the Gospel is the primary calling of the church. The other is to so put all those issues to the background because they want to be faithful to the gospel or just don't want to be controversial, one or the other, that they're afraid to speak to the current issues and bring a Biblical worldview to bear on current issues. Which can also be a mistake because as a church, you want to hold the Gospel first and foremost, not let it be something that's dwarfed behind a message of an agenda for a single issue, but at the same time not surrender all ground to speaking to current issues.

Kurt Bjorklund: And the way at least we've tried to do that here is to say, "We want to speak to issues, but we don't want to do it in soundbites." And what we mean by that is, we're not going to simply have somebody walk through the doors and just hear, "Oh, well, this church is here and everyone should be here." But if we engage the issue, we want to engage it with a robust enough conversation that then somebody can say, "Well, I may not agree with you, but at least I heard a well thought out reasoned position, rather than just a sound soundbite about the issue." And that's a challenge sometimes, but that seems to have worked overall for us at Orchard Hill.

George Palombo: And I think the most important thing you said in there is that we bring the gospel to those current event issues, that we must see... And people bring in their viewpoints in, the worldview comes into the church, and we must see those things within the light of the Gospel. We have to face them.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well, and if you don't ever talk about those issues, you'll have a generation of people who will grow up that you've had no way of influencing their thinking. And then you'll wonder why on some issues they won't hold Biblical positions. And that's a failure as a local church to not speak to current issues in at least some format.

Kurt Bjorklund: All right, here's a question, George. "What happens after death? I'm wondering, what does the Bible teach about what happens to believers at the moment they pass away? I've always thought that believers are immediately brought into the presence of Jesus. And I find that very comforting. However, I'm wondering if this is what the Bible actually teaches. I've heard some believers say that we will go into some sort of state of rest. What does the Bible actually teach about this?"

George Palombo: Well, last night I thought to myself, maybe we should go to the cemetery and do some interviews and find out from people. Unfortunately, we're not going to get any answers from them. I mean, that's one of the hardest issues too, because there's this veil of unknown, that death to us is the absolute unknown to us, that it's the one veil we are not able to cross and do an investigation there and come back and let everybody know.

George Palombo: But as far as a Scriptural answer is concerned, the Apostle Paul is very clear that his belief is that when he is absent from the body, he will be present with the Lord. I think that was a reigning theme throughout the entire New Testament. Philippians and Thessalonians, we read about, this is a good scenario. When we are born again and we are brought into the Kingdom of Light, something good happens inside of us. But we're waiting for something better. The Apostle Paul tells us that we're waiting for something better. But our ultimate is the best that we're waiting for is our becoming like Christ and him being the first fruits of that in that we will live again in resurrection bodies.

Kurt Bjorklund: All right. So if I'm hearing you, what you're saying is, you don't know in a sense, because we don't know anybody who's died and come back to life, other than Jesus.

George Palombo: Yes. He didn't report for the interview today either.

Kurt Bjorklund: That's right. But there are some testimonies in scripture to that. And your understanding then based on Paul and some other texts would be that, you don't have some kind of soul rest, but that you're immediately in the presence of God.

George Palombo: Well, traditionally, yeah, there's the soul sleep, the psychopannychia, or you know, that was always branded as a heresy that we go into some sort of a soul sleep until the great resurrection comes to pass. But that's always been put down in orthodox circles as a heresy. That when we do die, we are immediately brought in to the presence of the Lord.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, obviously this didn't address this directly. So, what does that say to the doctrine of purgatory that some churches teach, which is the idea you go into a holding pattern, basically, while some are resolved that either let you pass into eternity with Christ, heaven, or not, which sometimes is also used for relatives giving money to help you move along faster. Where does that idea come from Biblically? Does it have any ground at all?

George Palombo: Yeah, I don't think it has any ground Biblically. You know, that that we go to some place of... That we spent some period of time. The Catholic Church has put that forth for forever. And the idea of us being purged though is going to happen in a moment. We are going to go through it when we pass through the veil of death. We are going to need to be purged. Again, we're living in a state of goodness where we are redeemed, but we have not been perfected. And in that moment of, if that's what they want to call purgatory, that it happens immediately in a moment, yeah, we're going to be purged of our sin nature before we're ushered into the presence of Christ.

George Palombo: I had a a seminary professor who always said, "I have no problem with the idea of purgatory if their sense of purgatory is that it happens in a moment and they're ushered into the glory of Christ. Because we will be purged of our sin nature." So I always thought that was interesting, but the idea of this penitence time where we need to be prayed for, yeah, that just finds its roots in...

Kurt Bjorklund: Right, okay. Yeah. That statement, "I have no problem with purgatory if it's instantaneous," is almost a way of manipulating-

George Palombo: Circumventing, yes.

Kurt Bjorklund: Trying to say, "Go ahead, believe that, but..." Whereas the idea itself is not found, I don't believe, either in Scriptures.

George Palombo: I would say it's anti-Biblical.

Kurt Bjorklund: It seems very clear that there's an immediate sense of judgment. Now, what this question might be hinting at is, a lot of times there's a belief that immediately you are in your eternal state. And again, if you take the whole teaching of the Scriptures, there is a sense in which the eternal state is yet future. Now, that doesn't mean you're not caught up and with God immediately, or in a state that is. But with the idea of coming back and re-inhabiting the earth and some of those things, you're final eternal state is yet future after you die. And so that's maybe part of the idea. But again, there's enough things that say, "You'll be with me today in paradise." Paul, "To be absent from the body is present with the Lord." Those kinds of things. Hebrews 9:27, "It's appointed for a person once to die, after this comes judgment." All of those things indicate that there's an immediacy to it, even though there's a future sense of the eternal state.

George Palombo: Why, we even have the witness of Christ, that he died and he left that body, I mean, it spent three days in a tomb where he went, and then came back. And he is the first fruits of that glorification that we'll get to enjoy glory in a body forever, eternally. That's encouraging.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well, good. Thank you, George for your time today.

George Palombo: It was my privilege.

Kurt Bjorklund: Thank you for spending part of your day with us here today, and we want to just encourage you, if you have questions to send them to