Bible FAQs

Dr. McGee's Answers to Common Bible Questions:

What is the meaning of baptism?

Which mode of baptism is biblically correct?

What does the Bible teach about cremation?

Can a Christian be possessed by demons?

What is dispensationalism?

What is the filling of the Holy Spirit?

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Why does TTB use and offer the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible?

How can we have peace of mind?

Did creation take 6000 years?

What is Dr. McGee's view of creation?

Do you hold to the gap theory of creation?

You have made reference to a new creation theory. Could you discuss it?

What is the meaning of baptism?

The word "baptism" is never translated in the New Testament; instead, it is transliterated. This is unfortunate because the problems associated with this word would be resolved if it were actually translated. The Greek word "baptism" means "identification." It really has nothing to do with water, as often it is speaking of something where water is not involved.

It sometimes has to do with something wet and sometimes with things which are dry. Let me illustrate: In 1 Corinthians 10 the Bible says Israel was baptized unto Moses while passing through the sea. They were now identified with Moses as God's people and no longer in bondage.  The only people who got wet were the Egyptians who were in pursuit and drowned. This provides a wonderful picture of the Christians today who are identified with Christ and no longer are in bondage to the world.

John the Baptist said the Lord would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire. Believers would be identified with Him as the Church, His body, by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), but unbelievers would be identified with judgment (fire).

When we are baptized in water, we show outwardly that we have had a wonderful work performed in our heart by believing in Jesus and are identified with all other believers in Christ.

Although baptism is commanded to be administered to all those who have believed in Christ, it cannot save or contribute to our salvation, else we could say that works were necessary to be saved. The Scripture makes it very clear that no works on our part are necessary for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

For more information on this subject, see Dr. McGee's commentary on 1 Corinthians.

Which mode of baptism is biblically correct?

Dr. McGee felt that immersion is the best mode of baptism, because it depicts our death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. However, the important thing is the meaning of baptism rather than the mode. He did not feel that it is necessary for a person to be baptized in order to become a Christian, but after a person has received the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Savior, then he should be baptized in water to identify himself with Christ and in order to obey the Lord's command (Matthew 28:19).

For more information on this subject, see Dr. McGee's commentary on Matthew 14–28.

What does the Bible teach about cremation?

Nothing is said in Scripture for or against cremation. First Corinthians 15 makes it clear that no matter what condition the body is in at death, the resurrection of the Christian is assured.  However, most Christians prefer the traditional method of burial because burning of the remains is so widely practiced by pagans. While Dr. McGee was with us, he wrote about this subject:

Cremation

It is true that the Bible does not specifically deal with cremation of the body, but note that in the Word of God, the handling of the body after death is always done with respect, and it is reverently entombed.

Believers realize that the body will someday be resurrected. In the New Testament, it is quite interesting to find that the early Christians adopted a very wonderful word for the burying places of their loved ones. It is the Greek word, koimeterion which means a “rest house for strangers” or a “sleeping place.” It is the same word from which we get our English word cemetery. The same word was used in that day for an inn or what we would call a hotel or motel, places where you spend the night to sleep, expecting to get up the next day and continue your journey. This is a picture of the place where you bury your saved loved ones. The Scriptures teach in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that the body of a believer is put into a sleeping place until the resurrection because the Lord is coming and the body is going to be raised up. Note that it is the body, not the soul, that is in the grave. The soul is eternal. It never sleeps or dies but goes directly to heaven when released from the body.

When you and I bury loved ones who know Christ, we have the confidence that we will see them again. When we bury them in the soil, it is like planting a seed in the ground: “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:42). I believe burial is a testimony of our faith, which is the reason I strongly recommend it.

However, 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that, no matter what condition the body is in at death, the resurrection of the body is assured.

The Bible clearly teaches that both the saved and the unsaved will be resurrected. Those who are not caught up to be with Christ at the Rapture will be resurrected later. You can read this in Revelation 20. In verse 6 it says, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”

Then, speaking of those who are not believers, we read in verses 11 through 15 that they will stand before the great white throne of God, and after they are judged, they will be cast into the lake of fire. “…This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14, 15). This is a solemn and terrible future for those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Can a Christian be possessed by demons?

When a person places his or her trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, there is no possibility of that individual being indwelt by demons. Light and darkness do not dwell together (John 1:5; 1 John 4:4). We cannot be absolutely sure that our problems are caused by Satan, but we do know that he cannot bother us any more than God will allow. God's power is greater than Satan's power (2 Corinthians 4:4 and 11–13; Ephesians 6:12 and 16; 1 Peter 5:8-9).

What is dispensationalism?

Dispensationalism is the recognition that God directs man differently at various times. The term comes from the Greek word which means stewardship, management, administration. Let me illustrate. Israel was given the Law as a way of life. They were given a temple, priesthood, sacrifices, etc. This was the administration of God over those people, the total direction of their lifestyle. The church has none of these requirements. We differ also in that we are to go into the world individually and collectively with the message of salvation, whereas Israel was to be a beacon to which others would be drawn in order to worship the living and true God. You can see then that the two dispensations are entirely different.

There are seven dispensations, two of which I have just described. Paul speaks of ages in the past (Colossians 1:26) and ages yet to come (Ephesians 2:7). This would account for at least five dispensations. Some Bible teachers see more dispensations than the seven, and these teachers are called hyper-dispensationalists. Dr. McGee followed the teaching that there are seven: (1) Innocence; (2) Conscience; (3) Human Government; (4) Promise; (5) Law; (6) Church; and (7) Kingdom.

What is the filling of the Holy Spirit?

In order for the Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us, and give assurance, we must walk by means of the Spirit; that is, be

filled with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).

Walking by the Spirit means to be in fellowship with God. In other words, our relationship with God is not to be hindered by sin.

a.  We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) by having sin in our lives.

b.  We need to have all sins confessed (1 John 1:9).

c.  We are not to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Literally, this means that we are not to resist His leading.

When we are thus in fellowship, God can then accomplish His purpose in our lives.

We are baptized into Christ once (1 Corinthians 12:13) but may be filled many, many times.

Dr. McGee stated that to be filled with the Spirit  "is not an excessive emotionalism, but that which furnishes the dynamic for living and for accomplishing something for God. When we are filled by the Holy Spirit, it means that we are controlled by the Holy Spirit." Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be filled with the Spirit; Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:18 talk about being led of the Spirit; Galatians 5:16 and 25 talk about walking in the Spirit. These are different ways of saying the same thing: a Christian needs to live in close fellowship with God through His Word and prayer so that He can direct our thoughts, words, and actions.

For more information on this subject, see Dr. McGee's book Through His Spirit: The Person and Unique Work of the Holy Spirit.

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

There is the baptism of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1Corinthians 12:13, where we are told that every believer has already been baptized by the Holy Spirit. This takes place at conversion, for at that time we are placed into the body of Christ. Even the carnal Corinthians had been baptized by the Holy Spirit. Further, there is no exhortation in the New Testament to seek this experience, although we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). But the filling and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are two distinct ministries.

For more information on this subject, see Dr. McGee's book Through His Spirit: The Person and Unique Work of the Holy Spirit.

Why does TTB use and offer the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible?

Dr. McGee briefly served as a member of the New King James Committee. Because of failing health and in order to save his strength for the essential duties of Thru the Bible Radio, he left this committee. However, in the years that followed he became more familiar with the NKJV. He realized that the language was not irreverent, and that the translators preserved the flavor and cadence of the Authorized Version as much as possible.

Although Dr. McGee most frequently taught from the King James Version (KJV) and New Scofield Reference Bible, he did not limit himself to just one version when he studied the Word of God. In fact, he often quoted from other translations such as the American Standard Version of 1901, the Amplified Bible, and Moffett's translation. He often mentioned that he used up to 20 different versions of the Bible when preparing for his lessons.  

Literature abounds arguing that the KJV is the only "true" and valid translation. We would like to remind you that no translation into any language is inspired. Only the original languages constitute this.

The NKJV is not a departure or theological deviation from the wonderful King James, but simply an updating which time has necessitated. The Greek from which all translations of the New Testament have been made was the common Greek of that day, not the dignified literary expression of the upper class (the classical Greek). It was the ordinary street language, the workingman's language, that the Holy Spirit used to communicate God's revelation. This is exactly what the translator must do today–communicate to the best of his ability in the language that men most easily understand.

Crusaders who pose as experts in linguistics have tried to persuade their adherents into believing that they have discovered a serious deviation from conservative Christianity in the appearance of the NKJV. These self-appointed experts possibly do not know that King James ordered a new translation of the Bible because of certain notes in the Geneva Bible (then in general use in England) which did not meet with his approval.              

The version which King James authorized has been revised many, many times since 1611 and, due to the circumstances at the time of its publication, the first King James Version met similar criticism as this latest revision.

As the Board of Directors of Thru the Bible met to discuss and pray about whether or not to offer the NKJV, they became confident that Dr. McGee would have endorsed the course we eventually took to make it available to our listeners.

How can we have peace of mind?

If you want peace of mind, the Scriptures are very clear on that: "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). That's a benefit that is yours if you can see that by faith you're saved and that God by His grace has extended grace to you not because of merit, but because you have a need. You can't save yourself, and He's agreed to do it. Now if you rest in Christ–believe Him–then you can have peace of mind. But if you mean that you want to go through this world wrapped up in cellophane or packed in cotton, you're just entirely wrong about that. Because when you get on a plane, for instance, and you get in a storm and it begins to wobble up and down, you'd be a very strange individual if you don't lose a little of your peace and become a little bit concerned about the situation. But you can have that deep peace of mind only through Jesus Christ.

Did creation take 6000 years?

I personally take the side of a 24-hour, 7-day creation, but to attempt to date those days is a problem. I don't think anyone can date them at all. And, very candidly, we've been told very little about creation. Moses was not interested in giving us a lesson in geology or a lesson on science. He just is giving us, actually, the religious history of mankind. He doesn't go into a great deal of details. I have come to the conclusion that all of this scientific endeavor today to try and determine the origin of life and the origin of this universe is really a waste of time. The only place in the world you're going to find out how it began is in the first chapter of Genesis, in fact in the first verse, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

What is your view of creation?

My theory is contrary to evolution. I'll be very frank: I think evolution as a science (and I don't think it ever was a science, but has passed as a science) is in deep trouble today, because very intelligent Christian scientists are raising all kinds of questions concerning it. Now let me then add this: Regardless of what viewpoint you take, if it's evolution - that's merely a theory. In fact, it probably right now is an exploded theory. But creation is the only one that I think stands up. I read an article by a scientist who said that you have to go back to the time when there is nothing, and then you have to pass from nothing to something. And that passing from nothing to something is the real problem. Evolution cannot answer that, and may I say to you, nothing can answer that except that there is a creator who passed nothing to something. He started with nothing and He made something. You have to go back to that kind of a simplicity or you can't begin at all.  Therefore, the writer to the Hebrews says, "Through faith we understand that the worlds [that are now] were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (11:3). That is, nothing was made into something. And how do you understand that? Only by faith, friend. You take that by faith or you don't take it at all.

Do you hold to the gap theory of creation?

I hold to it for just one reason: That if people today want to talk about things happening a billion years ago as if they know, then I'm willing to give them all the rope they need to hang themselves. And if the rope is that they need a million years - I'll give it to them in Genesis 1:1 if they want it. I have a notion that God was doing something other than twiddling His thumbs before the creation here on this earth. I don't know what He was doing, but I'm sure glad He thought of you and me and that He has a plan for us for all eternity. That's the big thing, the great thing, the wonderful thing. Do I think the six-day account of the original creation is a reformation of a tohu va-bohu creation? (Hebrew of Genesis 1:2, translated in the King James as "without form, and void." See Dr. McGee's Edited Messages on Genesis for more detailed information.) I certainly do. I think that's exactly what you have in the first chapter of Genesis. There are two words there used for "create" or "make," and I think that it's well to consider them.

You have made reference to a new creation theory. Could you discuss it?

This new creation, or early creation, is that this earth is not millions and millions of years old, but that it is probably anywhere from 10 to 20 thousand years old. They have good scientific evidence that supports that. Now as far as I am personally concerned, I would accept that because I feel like it is the full answer to the evolutionist. I was brought up to contend against the evolutionary theory, and I will grant them certain things that are actually not facts. And one is that the earth may be millions and millions of years old. Now in the gap theory that I teach in Genesis when we begin our five-year study, my argument of course is that God has eternity in back of Him as well as eternity ahead of Him. The psalmist says, "From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God" (Psalm 90:2). And that everlasting means from the vanishing point of the past to the vanishing point of the future, Thou are God. So there is plenty of room for millions of years if you feel like you have to have them. But there is one thing that you have to come to: There came a time when God created this earth and out of nothing. It's very easy in evolution to go back billions of years to an ooze and take out of that a little amoeba and start with that. But somebody had to make the ooze, and someone had to start this thing going. The interesting thing is that evolution never did deal with the origin of things. So this new theory is a very attractive explanation.