Monday, March 8, 2010

The Misuse of Drugs

Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Revelation 9:21

"This verse refers to the misuse of drugs in connection with the occult. The Greek word pharmakeia, usually translated "sorceries," "witchcraft" or "magic arts," is here rendered by this longer phrase in order to focus on the fact that using potions and drugs is an essential part of the words meaning–as is clear from the derived English words "pharmaceuticals" and "pharmacy."

The usual renderings suggest to many people a setting so removed from the fabric of their lives that the text does not speak to them. The reason I employ this lengthy expression is that the Jewish New Testament is a product of the 1980's, when the Western world has seen an explosion of drug abuse, and I want readers to understand that this subject is dealt with in the Bible.

Spiritually speaking, there are four distinct categories of drug misuse: (1) taking drugs in order to explore spiritual realms, (2) taking drugs in order to engage in "sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts" while under their influence, (3) giving drugs to other people in order to gain control over them, which is another form of "sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts," and (4) taking drugs for pleasure.

The last is a misuse because the drugs in question–besides whatever temporary enjoyment they provide, and apart from their adverse medical and psychological effects–open a person to supernatural or spiritual experiences; but these experiences are almost always demonic and not from God, since the Holy One of Israel reveals himself through His word (Romans 1:16-17, 10:8-17), not through drugs. (I know of one instance where God overruled LSD and spoke to someone under its influence; he became a believer immediately, was instantly sober and never used drugs again).

Just as a virgin who has sexual intercourse can never again be a virgin, so a person is not the same after having taken mind-altering drugs. His range of experience has been broadened, but not every experience is edifying (1C 10:23).

From other New Testament passages where "pharmakeia" and its cognates appear, we learn that those who misuse drugs "have no share in the Kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:20), so that they remain outside the holy city, New Jerusalem;"....

So much for the Bad News. The Good News is that when a pride-filled, weak-willed, uncaring, despairing drug-user trusts [Jesus] the Messiah, God can turn him into a person of faith and right action."

Stern, David H. 1996. Jewish New Testament Commentary. Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications., pgs 816-817

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