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by Phillip Vanwinkle
DECEMBER 11, 2015

Should I Now, or Shall I Then?

In the English language, there are expressions that are somewhat uncertain as to their meaning. Therefore, context is key to understanding what is meant.

When we think of the words “should” and “shall,” we notice a difference in meaning. For instance, if my father scolded me for refusing to eat my carrots, he would say, “you shall get up from the table and go to the room and wait for me.”

On the other hand, if my father wanted to give me a choice in a certain matter, he would use the word “should.” He might say, “You know, you should take your little brother with you to the mall, so he can buy a gift for mother’s day.” He is giving me the choice to either take my little brother with me, or not to take him. 

And so we can conclude that there is a noted difference between should and shall. The difference in should and shall is a difference in Mood and Time.

Is there any real difference in these two sentences?

  1. “Everyone should give glory to Jesus.”
  2. “Everyone shall give glory to Jesus.”

Keeping this distinction in mind, let's read Philippians 2:10-11:

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

According to Strong’s parsing of the text, we have the following concerning this phrase “should” or “should bow/confess”:

  • Tense: Aorist
  • Voice: Active
  • Mood: Subjunctive

Aorist Tense

The aorist tense is characterized by its emphasis on punctiliar action; that is, the concept of the verb is considered without regard for past, present, or future time. There is no direct or clear English equivalent for this tense, though it is generally rendered as a simple past tense in most translations.

The events described by the aorist tense are classified into a number of categories by grammarians. The most common of these include a view of the action as having begun from a certain point ("inceptive aorist"), or having ended at a certain point ("cumulative aorist"), or merely existing at a certain point ("punctiliar aorist"). The categorization of other cases can be found in Greek reference grammars.

Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood is the mood of possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon circumstances.

So, what does this passage teach? Paul is stating that, based on what Christ has done in leaving Heaven to come to Earth, it is the case that everyone and everything really should make the choice to give glory to God, and that this choice should be made at a certain specific point in time, while time still exists.

Indeed that is true! But now let's see what Paul says in Romans 14:11:

For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.  But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

Again notice what Strong’s Parsing says of this word “shall” or “shall bow/confess”

  • Tense: Future
  • Voice: Active
  • Mood: Indicative

The future tense corresponds to the English future, and indicates the contemplated or certain occurrence of an event which has not yet occurred.

The indicative mood is a simple statement of fact. If an action really occurs or has occurred or will occur, it will be rendered in the indicative mood.

So what do we learn from Paul in the book of Romans?

There is coming a time—it will happen in the future. It has not yet happened, but the simple fact is that everyone shall (will) bow and confess before Christ.

So what do we conclude?

Now is the time to choose to confess and bow before the King (Christ). Because one day you will, regardless of whether you choose to do it now or not. The difference is that if you choose to confess Him now and remain faithful, you get to be part of His eternal Kingdom.

If you are made to do it later, you will spend eternity away from God, in Hell. Notice Jesus' words:

Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 10:32-33)

Again Jesus stated:

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink? And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels... (Matt. 25:34-41)

Let me urge you, friend: Search the scriptures. Find the Christ, obey His will and spend eternity with Him.

If you wish to study further concerning salvation, please start here:

The Steps of Salvation


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