Defining Words

By Vince Finnegan

1 Thessalonians 2:13; Acts 17:11   Receive the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily


2 Timothy 2:14-15   Focusing on a word while ignoring the context can be misleading. We do not want to determine our doctrine based upon word studies, rather on the overall scope of the Scriptures.

Word studies when done right can be helpful because they illuminate the significance of biblical concepts like justification or repentance. However, we cannot just search a word to find everything the Bible communicates regarding a particular concept. For example, Psalm 150 is teeming with joy, but the word is never used. Studying the use of a particular biblical word is helpful, but we must be careful not to derive too much meaning from a word study. Ultimately, we are interested in concepts. Word studies are merely a means for understanding biblical concepts, and the results of our study must be considered in light of the overall biblical view concerning a given subject.

Many words have more than one meaning. Elementary education teaches children to understand words as they relate to the sentence and context in which they are used. If a sentence is about money, then the word “bank” refers to a building that keeps money. If the sentence, paragraph, and context are about a river, then the word “bank” refers to the land alongside the river. If the subject is a pool table, the cushion on the sides is the bank. Mary drove into the snowbank. Tom had big banks of speakers on either side of his console. CONTEXT DETERMINES THE MEANING OF THE WORDS. So, it is when reading the Bible.

The King James Bible was printed in 1611. The English language has gone through some very drastic changes over the last 400 years.



Genesis 1:1   God existed before He made the heaven and earth. The context of this chapter is referring to the physical heaven.

Genesis 14:19-22; Psalm 89:10-12   Heaven and earth


Birds of heaven – 1 Kings 14:11; 21:24
Rain from heaven − Deuteronomy 11:11
Rain and snow come down from heaven − Isaiah 55:10
Dew of heaven – Genesis 27:28
Frost of heaven − Job 38:29
Lightning, rain, and wind − Psalm 135:7
Lightning – Luke 17:24
Clouds − Acts 1:9; Matthew 26:64
Rainbow – Ezekiel 1:28

CELESTIAL HEAVEN (outer space)

Genesis 1:8, 14-16 – sun and moon

Jeremiah 33:25; Number 3:16 – stars

THE DWELLING PLACE OF GOD (spiritual realm)

Ecclesiastes 5:2   Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore, let your words be few.

Matthew 5:34, 45, 48   This heaven is not a physical place somewhere in the universe; rather, it is in the spiritual realm. God often compares spiritual realities with human realities so that we can understand.

Hebrews 8:1; 9:24   Christ ascended into heaven.

Revelation 5:11-14   God, Jesus, living creatures, elders, and angels dwell in the spiritual realm.

GOD (by the figure metonymy)

Metonymy is a figure of speech in which the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant, for example suit for business executive, or the track for horse racing.

Matthew 4:17 and 23   Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are synonymous. Heaven is figuratively used for God. Kingdom of heaven is used only in the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 21:25; Mark 11:30   Was John from heaven or from men?

James 1:16 - 17   The perfect gifts were not stored in a warehouse in heaven.

John 3:27   A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

John 6:30-31   The bread was not stored in heaven and rained down upon them. God gave them manna that appeared on the ground after the dew disappeared.

32-33   Following the logic set forth, neither manna nor Jesus were in heaven; rather, both came from God.



John 4:24 − God

Acts 2:4 − God’s gift to man, the spirit of truth, holy spirit

2 Thessalonians 2:8 − Breath

Genesis 2:7; Matthew 27:50 – Soul life in man, the life residing in man

John 3:8 – Wind

Luke 1:46-47 – The rational mind generally distinct from the body and the soul

Luke 24: 37; 39 – A person reappearing after death, a ghost.

1 Peter 3:19 – Angels


James 1:4   Perfect, complete, and lacking nothing. Perfect is defined in the dictionary as absolute, complete. Perfect is defined as whole or perfect.

James 3:15   Earthly, natural, demonic

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