True Bible Teaching about God’s Purpose and His plan of Salvation for all those who will believe in Him
1. WHERE MODERN CHRISTIANITY FAILS
Somebody once said that you will never find atheists on a life raft. This is another way of saying that when people are in desperate situations, they cannot afford to leave God out of their reckoning.
The stark fact is that we are all in a desperate situation, always. When people swagger and snap their fingers in God’s face, they are living in a dream world. They are not awake to the fact that life, at its best, is brief and precarious.
That is at its best!
And in these days of world wars and hydrogen bombs, life is more uncertain than ever. There is but a step between us and death.
Let us then begin by acknowledging that we need God. We are all on the same life raft; the sea is rough, and the sky is dark and threatening. We dare not pretend that we don’t believe in Him.
As believers in God, we ask the question: can we find a sensible and satisfying way of worshipping this God in whom we believe?
Would I be right in assuming that we believe in Jesus Christ too? Good! So it looks as if we ought to be enthusiastic members of the community that Christ founded.
But someone may protest; it’s not so easy as that. Much as we respect and admire Jesus Christ, we don’t feel too happy about modern Christianity. It’s difficult to explain, but there seems to be something missing.
Yes, there is something inadequate about modern Christianity, Many Christians are agreed about this, and fervently wish it were otherwise. Although the sects of Christendom are many and varied, there is a basic sameness about most of them and there is something missing.
Out of touch …
Where does modern Christianity fail? To begin with, it isn’t modern enough in the things that matter. Don’t misunderstand me! Many Christian communities are trying desperately hard trying too hard to be “with it”, but they are quite out of touch with the real issues of our day. The world is bristling with problems that modern Christians cannot answer.
Here are some of the problems that are too big for the Christians of today:
Will there be another world war?
Will civilization be destroyed?
What is God’s answer to the bomb?
Can we look forward, confidently, to a time when there will be “glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men”?
Ought Christians to take part in war?
Can we expect God to intervene in human affairs?
Do world politics fit into a programme, or are they a matter of chance?
What is really happening in the Middle East?
If God is a God of love, why does He permit suffering?
There must be something wrong with a Christianity that cannot tackle such vital questions as these.
To pursue the matter just a little further: suppose we were to put the first question. Will there be another world war? To people qualified to speak for some of the larger and more respected Christian denominations. There would be no re-assuring uniformity about the answers, and they would not really tell us anything at all. The answers would probably be of two types. One type could be expressed something like this: “It is impossible to predict precisely what the future holds for us, but it is clear that unless men learn to live at peace with each other, war is inevitable.” A pious truism that helps nobody. The other type of answer would be a dogmatic assertion that, to a true Christian, a third world war would be unthinkable; but not a shred of evidence would be offered to support this pleasing sentiment.
… with Christ
Modern Christianity isn’t modern enough. It cannot grapple with the problems of our day. But, paradoxically, it isn’t ancient enough either. The sober truth is that the Christianity of most Christians today is not the Christianity of Christ. If it were, it would be as relevant now as it was when Christ was on earth. The Christianity of our day is out of touch with this modern world because it is not the Christianity of the first century.
Let us come back to an earlier comment. I said that many Christian communities are trying desperately hard to be “with it”. That’s just the trouble. They are too concerned about keeping up to date. They feel that they have lost their grip, and are afraid that their stock will go down still further if they appear old-fashioned. Accordingly, they have “trimmed” their Christianity, and in their attempts to bring it in line with modern thinking, have robbed it of the very things that have made it unique. See the irony: modern Christians cannot deal with modern problems because they are trying too hard to be modern!
If only the Christians of our day knew the authority and power of the religion that Christ founded, they would lose all their inhibitions and hold their heads high. They would also be able to give a good account of themselves. God knows the answers to the problems that perplex men today: and His servants are invited to learn the answers too.
I have spoken about modern Christians trimming their Christianity to try to bring it into line with modern thinking. Let me be more explicit. In their anxiety to keep in step, many Christians have denied, or played down, two distinctive and essential features of the Christianity of Christ:
1. The authority of Scripture.
2. The miraculous element.
There is a striking similarity between the attitude of modern Christians and that of the Sadducees of our Lord’s day. Of the Sadducees, the Lord Jesus said:
“You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt 22:29)
Only a Christianity that accepts the absolute authority of Scripture, and believes that God performs miracles, will make sense.
2. A MESSAGE FROM THE CREATOR
God Gives the Instructions
Let us get down to basic things. We believe in God, and we want to worship Him acceptably. How do we set about it?
We can do one of two things. Either we can make our own decisions about how to worship God, and hope that they will be acceptable to Him; or we can follow God’s instructions.
Obviously, the second way is the right one. We are being foolish and arrogant if we try to work out our own system of worship, when God has issued His instructions. We are asking for trouble.
Did you say that you are not sure what God’s instructions are? So you find it hard to make up your mind how you should regard the Bible? Of course you admit that the Bible is an exceptional book; you are very impressed by some parts, especially those about the Lord Jesus Christ; indeed, you have no doubts in your mind that some parts of the Bible are divine; but you would say that other parts so clearly bear the marks of human imperfection that you have no confidence in them.
Drawing the Line – Somewhere
A bit of hard thinking will help here. You say that you believe that some parts of the Bible are divine, but that other parts are human and imperfect. So somewhere in the Bible you have to draw the line between what is human and what is divine. You must agree that the divine parts, because they are divine, are as valuable as anything could be, whereas the human parts are of little worth in comparison. So this business of drawing the line is just about the most important job you will ever be called upon to do. Have you treated it seriously, and really got down to it?
And how has it worked out? What did you make of the letters of Paul: human or divine? Don’t forget that Paul was the one who gave us that beautiful chapter about love 1 Corinthians 13. Would you say that he was moved by God to write this? I wonder whether you were thinking that some of Paul’s utterances don’t measure up to this “love” chapter.
So you have to distinguish between the divine and the human parts of Paul’s writings. It’s getting a bit complicated, isn’t it?
How do you regard the book of Proverbs? Some people think that the advice that Proverbs gives us is marvelous and divine, in fact. Others have their doubts. When people start drawing lines between some scriptures and others, different people draw their lines in different places. What it amounts to is that different people have different Bibles.
And how about the Psalms? A bit grim in places, did you say? Strange then, that Jesus himself got so much out of them!
You see the point? If you believe in a Bible that is partly human and partly divine, you will never know where to draw the line; and even if you think you know, other people will disagree with you. The result is bound to be confusion and uncertainty. Being human, people will tend to accept those parts of the Bible that they like, and reject the parts that they don’t like. Inevitably, the authority of the whole book, including its best parts (if we must distinguish) will be diminished. Which brings us back to where we started. When we regard the Bible as a mixture of divine wisdom and human folly, we can never be sure what God’s instructions are.
Is it seriously thought that the Creator of the universe, having prepared a vitally important message for us human-beings, would let it get so mixed up with human writings that no one could say with certainty which parts were human and which divine? Would we act so unintelligently ourselves?
The Link between the Testaments
Some people think that the line must be drawn between the Old and New Testaments. They regard the Old Testament as human, and the New Testament as divine.
This proves that they have very little knowledge of the New Testament, although they claim to regard it as divine. One important feature of the New Testament scriptures is that they repeatedly recommend the Old Testament as divine, authoritative and infallible.
Thus, speaking of the Old Testament, Paul says:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
“The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
And the Lord Jesus:
“The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
These are three amongst many New Testament passages that instruct us to think of the Old Testament as divine, authoritative and infallible. If we believe the New Testament, we must believe these passages, as parts of the New Testament; and if we accept these passages, we must likewise accept the Old Testament that they recommend. There is no escape from it. Old and New Testaments must both be regarded as divine. Or, if you prefer it that way, both must be rejected.
The Power of Bible Prophecy
Perhaps you would like some positive evidence that the Scriptures are a message from God. Consider the following passages concerning the people of Israel:
“I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation … And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste” (Leviticus 26: 31 33).
“And thou shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee” (Deuteronomy 28:37).
“And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other: and there thou shall serve other gods … And among these nations shall thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shall fear day and night . . .” (Deut 28:64-66).
“Though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jeremiah 30:11).
“Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock” (Jeremiah 31:10).
Here we have clear predictions that if the people of Israel were disobedient:
1 They would be scattered all over the world.
2 They would be a proverb and a byword.
3 They would suffer terrible persecutions.
4 Their land would be desolate.
5 They would survive as a race, despite scattering and persecution.
6 They would ultimately be gathered to their own land again.
Nobody can deny that this chain of unlikely prophecies has been fulfilled. The fact that the Scriptures have foreseen the whole course of Jewish history demands an explanation. The explanation submitted here is that the Bible is able to make these, and many other, unlikely predictions because it is a message from God. Do you know a better explanation?
Prophecies of the Messiah
I have referred to other unlikely predictions. Consider, for example, that chain of prophecies concerning the life and mission of the Lord Jesus. It is not an exaggeration to say that the life of Jesus is written in advance upon the pages of the Old Testament. His birthplace, his preaching, his friends, his enemies, the conspiracy, the treachery of a friend, the thirty pieces of silver, the mocking, the sharing of garments, the casting of lots for his “vesture”, the piercing of hands and feet, the vinegar drink, the cry from the cross, the rich man’s grave, the resurrection, the ascension: these and other daring predictions were written hundreds of years before Jesus came on the scene. There can only be one explanation for this amazing feature. The Bible is divine.
The Bible provides the answers
Remember those questions that modern Christians cannot answer? Readers of the Bible can take them in their stride. Already, in our quick look at prophecies about Israel, we have picked up some clues about what is happening in the Middle East. Jeremiah’s prophecy about the gathering of Israel is being fulfilled. We have discovered some indications, too, that there could well be a prophetic programme of world events, after all. And a climax to the programme?
But it is not my purpose to pursue these matters further just now. My immediate purpose is to show that it makes sense to regard the Bible, the whole Bible, as the Word of God. It does not make sense to do otherwise.
3. MIRACLES MAKE SENSE
Many years ago, Moses, the prophet, said to Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
“Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1).
Pharaoh asked Moses for a sign. Although Pharaoh was an unreasonable man, he was not being unreasonable on this occasion. Moses had claimed to be speaking for God: how was Pharaoh to know that the claim was valid? A sign, or a miracle, would settle the matter quickly and effectively. Accordingly, Moses matched his wonderful claim with a wonderful act. He threw down his rod, and it became a serpent.
Whether you believe this story or not, you must agree that, in the circumstances, the miracle would have fulfilled a real purpose. If it is reasonable to believe that God has spoken to men, it is also reasonable to believe that His communications have been supported by miracles. Divine revelation and miracle belong to each other. Without miracle, divine revelation would never get off the ground. How could reasonable people be expected to believe that messages had come from God without supporting signs?
It’s stupid to say loftily, “Miracles don’t happen”, as though that settles the matter once and for all. Certainly miracles don’t happen every day. If they were so commonplace, they would not be miracles. The Scriptures represent miracles as exceptional signs designed to support exceptional claims. Is the claim that the Creator of heaven and earth has sent a message to man an exceptional one? Then it must be supported by exceptional signs.
There is an appropriateness about the miracles of Scripture. The Creator of the universe is obviously in control of the universe He has created. He is the God of nature. What more effective method could the Creator employ to demonstrate that He was directly involved in some situation than that of performing an act that interrupted the normal course of nature? Only God could perform such a wonder, so here would be convincing evidence that the communication had indeed come from Him.
Miracle and Prophecy
Someone might protest that miracles, if they ever happened, would only have carried conviction as far as eye-witnesses were concerned. They might have been signs to those who saw them that God had spoken, but all that we have is the accounts of the alleged miracles. We can hardly be expected TO feel convinced by this sort of evidence. This is reasonable as far as it goes; but whereas we suffer the disadvantages of not having witnessed the signs, we have the advantage of having seen prophecies fulfilled. So God has provided both for the people of the prophets’ days, and for us. To the contemporaries of the prophets, who were not able to witness the fulfillment of long-term prophecies, God gave miracles. To us, who have not seen the miracles, God has given the evidence of fulfilled prophecy. Those who witnessed the miracles would have good reason to believe that the prophecies would be fulfilled, although they would not be there to witness them. And we, who have seen the wonders of fulfilled prophecy, have good reason to believe that the miracles happened, although we were not there at the time.
Can’t Win !
But some people are as stubborn and intractable as Pharaoh of old. If they had been living in Bible days, they would have demanded bigger and more spectacular miracles before believing God’s messengers. When, however, they read the accounts of these dramatic signs in Scripture (such signs as they would have clamoured for), they say, “How can we believe a book that tells us such unlikely stories?”
4. THE MIRACLE OF MIRACLES
The Credulity of Unbelief
Here we shall begin with a little discussion.
You believe in Jesus Christ: tell me, do you think he is alive today?
Careful! If the answer is, “Yes”, you are a believer in miracles. If Jesus is alive today, he must have been raised from the dead; and he must also have been made immortal. Two mightier miracles it would be difficult to imagine.
Miracle is an essential part of the life of Christ. Cut out the miracles and you are left with a dead man, and a few unreliable stories about him.
Why unreliable stories? Because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all speak of the miracles that Jesus performed. If miracles never happen, these stories are untrue, and all the rest of the gospel narrative must be suspect too.
Be clear about this: if you do not believe in miracles, then you have to believe in a completely different Christ. All the uniqueness is gone. He has been dead for nearly two thousand years. Yet, somehow, this ordinary person gave multitudes the impression that he had raised the dead, healed lepers and given sight to the blind. Somehow people imagined that they were eye-witnesses of these wonderful events.
Does it ring true? Frankly, I find it much more reasonable to believe in miracles. The alternative imposes too great a strain on one’s credulity.
Let us come back to the resurrection of Christ. This tremendous miracle made an immense impression on those who witnessed it. It completely transformed many lives.
It didn’t stop there. By their lives and their words these changed men affected others. Others felt the impact of the miracle, just as if they had witnessed it themselves. They in turn impressed others: and so it went on. It was much more than a sign for that generation. Men are still being shaken by the reverberations of the resurrection earthquake. Lives are still being transformed.
Why did the resurrection of Christ make such a difference to men’s lives? Why did those who were impressed by this great miracle feel a compelling urge to develop such noble, unselfish characters? Why were they willing to lose status, possessions, homes, and even life itself, rather than abandon their faith? Obviously, they had an unshakable conviction that their religion made sense. But why?
It is this matter of miracle and revelation again. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was an exceptional sign that supported exceptional claims. Or, to put it more strongly, it was a unique sign that supported unique claims.
Jesus of Nazareth (as they called him) had made some amazing claims. He had claimed that he was bringing blessings to mankind from the Creator Himself. Indeed, he had said that he was God’s own Son, and that he was able to bring men to his Father. This could have been dismissed as absurd, if it had not been supported by a really spectacular miracle. Only an amazing demonstration of divine power could establish such amazing claims. And so it happened. The resurrection settled the issue decisively. The claims of Jesus were true. He was God’s Son, and God had vindicated him.
Of course the resurrection was more than a sign. It was an act of God that meant the difference between a living Christ and a dead Christ. But as a sign alone its importance was immense. Jesus had made some other impressive claims too and his resurrection demonstrated the truth of these claims. He had said that he had been appointed to save men from sin and its consequence, death. He had said that he would come again to raise the dead, and to be a judge and a king. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was God’s way of demonstrating to humanity that he was the man appointed to fulfill these purposes.
Peter spoke of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in this way, on the Day of Pentecost:
“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses … Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32, 36).
And Paul declares:
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance … by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
All this is wonderful news for those who treat it with the respect that it deserves.
And it provides the answer to another of those questions that modern Christians are unable to answer.
And it makes sense.
5. COMMON SENSE AND BIBLE READING
The Bible is a message from God. If this proposition is true, or rather, because this proposition is true, it is obvious that we all ought to be diligent readers of the Bible.
It is astonishing how many people one meets who profess to believe that the Bible is divine, but yet cannot find time to read it. This just doesn’t make sense. One would have thought that it would be impossible to stop people from reading a message from the Creator of the universe.
Some people excuse themselves by saying that the Bible is an unattractive sort of book. It is so big, and so difficult to understand, they say, that one needs to be an intellectual to get down to it.
True, the Bible is a big book. Parts of it are difficult too; but other parts make very interesting reading, without much effort. Remember the story of Joseph? And have you tried the Acts of the Apostles? And for a thriller, the book of Esther will take some beating.
But what is the point? Is it seriously suggested that God could have made a much better job of His message, and that a shorter, simpler book would have been far more practicable?
How naive can people get? Need it be emphasized that God is the Creator, and that He knew exactly what He was doing when He gave us the Scriptures? The Bible comes to us in the form that it does because this is the best way. We may be assured that a shorter, simpler message would not have been adequate, for the simple reason that God has not given us a shorter, simpler message. If we do not like the Bible, the fault lies with us, and not with God. If we do not feel attracted to the Bible, it is time for us to start taking stock of ourselves.
A moment’s reflection will enable us to see why God has communicated to us in the way that He has done. The gift that God offers us is nothing less than eternal life. Our minds are not big enough to understand the greatness of this offer: but at least we know that it is an amazing gift.
Yes, eternal life is a gift. God does not expect us to earn it, nor indeed could we if we wanted to. One thing, however, God does require of us. That is, that we should appreciate His gift, and desire it intensely. The Scriptures are admirably designed to test and to develop our desire for God’s blessings.
If we say, “The Bible is too big and difficult”, and make no effort to read and understand it, we show that we are not particularly interested in God’s gift. It is not so much that God eliminates us from His scheme of salvation, as that we eliminate ourselves by not even attempting to get over the first hurdle.
If, later, we come to see that a little effort on our part would have been well worth it, we have no one to blame but ourselves. There is evidence that people will reproach themselves bitterly when they catch a glimpse of the blessings that might have been theirs. “There shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth.”
If, on the other-hand, we say, “The Bible is big, and parts of it are difficult, so I must really get down to studying it”, we demonstrate our desire to receive of God’s wisdom, and to have a part in His eternal purpose.
The Bible is a book to be studied, not dabbled with. Expressed in another way, God’s wisdom is given to those who seek it with all their hearts. See how this thought is brought out in Proverbs:
“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:1-6).
There is a persistency, and an intensity of desire here: and there is a fulfillment of that desire.
Developing a Taste
A man may begin reading the Scriptures out of a sense of duty, but as he continues reading, his taste for Scripture will develop. Ultimately, he will find Bible study a sheer delight. Like the Psalmist, he will say:
“O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day … How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:97,103).
Not only does the Bible student develop a taste for more Bible study: he develops a taste for spiritual things generally. The laws of God become the principles that direct his life. Like the Lord Jesus, he learns to love righteousness and hate iniquity; and in accordance with the Lord’s instructions, he seeks first the Kingdom of God. And thus that desire for divine blessing that leads him to the Bible in the first place is nurtured by Bible reading, and becomes so intense that it becomes the mainspring of his life. He completely changes his life’s priorities. He becomes more and more like the Christians of the first century, and more and more like the man whom he strives to follow.
One need not be an intellectual to study the Bible. It is true that some intellectual people have approached the Scriptures with a wise humility, and have received richly from God’s treasury. But many clever people get nothing from the Bible because they approach the book as people who already know all the answers. Humility and a desire to learn are basic qualifications.
“He gives wisdom unto the wise.” (Daniel 2:21)
6. MAKING A START
Suppose we decide to make a start with our Bible reading: how do we set about it? Where do we begin?
Well, we know that the New Testament is concerned with the Lord Jesus Christ, so why not start with the beginning of the New Testament, and see how we get along? We turn to Matthew 1:1, and read:
“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
What a strange beginning for a biography of Jesus Christ! Why does Matthew begin by telling us about two of Jesus’ ancestors, who lived so many years before him?
Just a Jewish custom, perhaps. Surely, we need not concern ourselves unduly about this. Let us move on to the real stuff. How does the next verse go?
“Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren …”
And so it goes on, name after name, to verse 16 where we read:
“And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
By this time it should have dawned on us that Matthew would not have troubled to link up Abraham and David with Jesus, generation by generation, if it were not very important. Here, right at the beginning of the story of Jesus, is probably a key to his mission. We must keep this thought in mind: Jesus is the son of David and the son of Abraham.
Starting in the Right Place
But something else ought to have occurred to us by this time too. The opening words of Matthew are telling us that before we can understand the mission of Jesus Christ, we have to know something about the Old Testament. That is where we should begin our reading. We started in the wrong place!
Rather obvious, isn’t it? The only sensible place to start reading any book is at the beginning. It is extraordinary how many people start reading the Bible in the wrong place. Little wonder that they find it a difficult book to understand. They are depriving themselves of essential facts.
Little wonder that there are so many questions that modern Christians cannot answer.
Fact Number One
We take the point, and go right back to the first verse in the Bible:
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
There follows a summary of God’s creative activity connected with the earth. We read of the creation of plant and animal life, and finally there is a brief statement concerning the creation of man.
Creation is, logically, the beginning of the whole story. Fact number one is: God is Creator. A world of consequences flows from this fact. Because God is the Creator, everything belongs to Him. God is in command. God makes the decisions. God’s standards are the right standards. The great question, “To be, or not to be”, rests ultimately with God.
All this finds expression in Psalms:
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm 24:1-2).
Verse 3 follows logically:
“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?”
(24:3) And so God proceeds to lay down the conditions. Human Rebellion This is the principle that operated in Eden. God created a man, and prepared a garden. He put the man in the garden, and told him that he could remain in the garden and enjoy its benefits if he were obedient to God’s law. If he disobeyed, he would die.
By an act of disobedience, Adam became a sinner, and was sentenced to death. This is the beginning of the human tragedy, and the background to the whole Bible story. Paul puts it like this:
“As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned …” (Romans 5:12)
The history of Adam’s descendants, as told in the Bible, is a fascinating story of human sin and divine grace. Ultimately divine grace triumphs through the Lord Jesus Christ.
7. PROMISES OF BLESSING
Trouble and More Trouble
A fascinating story of human sin and divine grace: this is a fair summary of the theme of the Bible.
Calamity follows calamity in the early chapters of Genesis. First there is the curse of Eden, next the flood, then the curse upon the Canaanites, and then the curse at Babel.
Then comes the breakthrough. To Abraham God said:
“I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2, 3).
Blessing and more blessing! Seven times God made gracious promises to Abraham. He was to be the channel of God’s blessing to humanity: Abraham and his seed.
Concerning Abraham’s seed God said:
“ … Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen. 22:17, 18).
Who was the seed of Abraham, and what was the blessing?
Let Peter supply the answer. Speaking to the Jews in Jerusalem, he refers to the promise to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed”, and adds:
“Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26) .
The promised seed of Abraham, who should bring a blessing to mankind, was Jesus; and the blessing was righteousness. So this great son of Abraham was appointed to reverse the effects of Adam’s disobedience.
This is a great theme, upon which the very issues of life depend. Although this is not the place to develop the theme, a reminder of the first verse of the New Testament may be appropriate:
“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of … Abraham.”
Jesus had come to fulfill the promise to Abraham, and bring righteousness to a world troubled by sin. Paul explains that by baptism into Christ a man joins the family of Abraham, and shares the blessing:
“As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:27-29).
The Covenant with David
We are making progress. Because the opening verse of the New Testament describes Jesus Christ as the son of David, the son of Abraham, and because a substantial part of the first chapter of Matthew is concerned with proving this relationship, we inferred that this was probably a key to the mission of Christ. Now we have discovered that this was true, at least as far as Abraham was concerned. Against a background of sin and trouble, God promised Abraham that a way of reconciliation and blessing would be provided to humanity through his son. Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, came to fulfill this promise.
But Jesus Christ is also described as the son of David, in the first chapter of Matthew. We could almost expect to find in the Old Testament some comparable promises to David, which find their fulfillment in Christ.
And we can find such promises. God said to David:
“And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will establish his throne for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son … I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore” (1 Chronicles 17:11-14).
A great king should come whose kingdom should be established forever. He was to be a son of David and son of God. Do we recognise him? Lest there should be any doubts, hear the words of the angel Gabriel, to a woman named Mary:
“Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shah reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).
Yes, Jesus, son of David and son of God, was born to be a king.
Yet he never reigned! Has God’s purpose failed? Indeed not! Jesus is coming again “with power and great glory”, as he himself announced. (Luke 21:27)
There are about three hundred references to the second coming of Christ in the New Testament. One must suffice here: the words that the angels spoke to the eyewitnesses of the Lord’s ascension, immediately after his departure:
“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Signs of the Second Coming
Just one further matter here, to complete this line of thought. The question follows naturally: when will Christ, the king, return to the earth? The Scriptures tell us that certain signs will be fulfilled immediately before the second corning. There are three important signs:
1 War, trouble and fear, on an unprecedented scale.
2 Wickedness, comparable to that in the days of Noah.
3 The revival of Jewish life in Palestine.
Many supporting scriptures could be quoted, but all three points are briefly covered by the two following quotations:
“They (the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:24-27).
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt 24:37-39).
Judge for yourself. Some of us are convinced that the Lord’s return will happen soon.
A concluding thought: the prayer, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10), means, ‘Send Christ the king soon’. Is this really our desire? Are we preparing for this great event?
8. FITTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
A brief summary of our conclusions may be helpful here. We have seen:
1. That modern Christianity is out of touch with the real issues of the day.
2. The reason for this is because there has been a departure from the Christianity of Christ. Modern Christianity loses its relevance and its vitality by playing down (1) the authority of Scripture; and (2) the miraculous element.
3. A Bible that is a mixture of divine wisdom and human folly would be useless. The book must be taken as a whole for acceptance or rejection. The fulfillment of Bible prophecy is one good reason for believing that the Bible is the Word of God.
4. The unlikely history of the Jewish Nation, and the unique life of the Lord Jesus Christ have been written in advance in the Old Testament.
5. If it is reasonable to believe that God has spoken to men, it is also reasonable to believe that His messages would be supported by miracles, Revelation and miracle belong to each other.
6. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a miracle that made an immense impact on humanity. It transformed lives in the first century, and it has been doing so ever since.
7. The Lord Jesus had made some amazing claims. He had claimed to be: the son of God and the saviour of the world; the man who would raise the dead, and be a judge and a king. The resurrection proved that all these claims were valid.
8. Because the Bible is a message from God, the sensible thing to do is to read it diligently. It is so valuable that we must persist, despite initial difficulties. Ultimately, we shall develop a taste for Bible study, and for God’s standards.
9. Obviously we should start reading the Bible at the beginning. Many people are confused and discouraged because they do not begin at the beginning.
10. The first chapters of Genesis are, logically, the beginning of God’s revelation. The first fact is that God is the Creator. Because of this, He is in charge. The human tragedy began because man rebelled against God’s authority.
11. Nevertheless, God provided a way of escape. His plan or salvation is based upon promises made to Abraham and David, and fulfilled in Christ. This explains why the first verse of the New Testament describes Jesus Christ as the son of David, the son of Abraham.
12. To Abraham God promised a son who should provide a way of reconciliation for sinners. To David God promised a son who should be a great king.
13. Jesus is coming again to fulfill God’s promises, and set up the kingdom of God on earth. When this happens, there will be “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men”.
14. The signs of world trouble, wickedness, and the restoration of Israel are being fulfilled today. The second coming must be near.
15. We must prepare for that great event.
9. IN CONCLUSION
Many people are dissatisfied with the Christianity of today and with good reason. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t bring peace to their minds, or joy to their hearts.
But what most people do not realise is that the Christianity of today is far removed from the religion that Christ founded. If they had been diligent readers of the Bible, they would have discovered this for themselves.
My purpose has been to show that Bible Christianity, or the Christianity of Christ, does make sense. It is now for you to decide whether or not a fair case has been presented.
First, ask yourself whether it is reasonable to believe in an authoritative Bible. And if the answer is yes, check up and see whether the beliefs set out briefly in this little booklet are in accordance with the Bible or not. This will take a little time, of course. You have a double check here. If these beliefs are scriptural, they ought also to make sense. In other words, they ought to appeal to reason, and they ought to hang together. Do they?
Appeal to the Heart
The God who gave us reasoning powers has also equipped us with emotions. A God-given religion should satisfy the heart as well as the head.
Of necessity, the emphasis has been on reason, in this booklet. But the Christianity of the Bible makes a powerful emotional appeal too. The Scriptures tell us what we already know, deep in our hearts: we are fighting a losing battle against sin. How moving then is a contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! With awe and gratitude we follow him to the cross. We suffer with him; by baptism we die with him. We are raised with him to “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Eagerly we await his second coming and the glorious prospect of a world at peace with God. This is something to live for, and to die for. And it carries with it a promise of resurrection from the dead.
You remember that list of questions that modem Christians cannot answer? In the course of our discussion, answers have been suggested, directly or indirectly, to most of these questions. But not all.
May I suggest that you do some Bible study on your own account and see whether the answers are scripturally based or not. And perhaps you can find the answers to the other questions too.
If you should decide that this is worth following up, may I recommend that you get in touch with the Christadelphians. Because they are a community of Bible reading Christians,
It is not surprising that their beliefs are in accordance with Scripture, and that they make sense. But there, that is for you to judge! Please do so! You will be well qualified to judge if you start regular Bible reading now.
By PETER WATKINS
God’s Purpose with the EARTH
God’s very Purpose with the Earth is stated in one verse by an oath “as truly as I live (says God) all the earth will be filled with the Glory of the LORD” Numbers 14:21
See this Article which explains what God’s Kingdom on Earth will be like
God’s word sets out for us just how He will accomplish this.
Just How God wanted to achieve this in the beginning is made clear: “And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ASV)
“For thus saith The LORD that created the heavens, the God that formed the earth and made it, that established it and created it not a waste, that formed it to be inhabited: I am The LORD; and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:18 ASV)
“For evil–doers shall be cut off; But those that wait for The LORD, they shall inherit the land. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: Yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and he shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the land, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:9-11 ASV)
“The righteous shall inherit the land, And dwell therein forever.” (Psalm 37:29 ASV)
“For the upright shall dwell in the land, And the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the land, And the treacherous shall be rooted out of it.” (Proverbs 2:21-22 ASV)
“After this manner therefore pray ye. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” (Matthew 6:9-10 ASV)
So with all these verses in mind (there are many more we could add) it is clear that God’s Purpose has to do with Firstly His Glory and Secondly Righteous People.
In Exodus 33:18 Moses asks God “I beseech thee, show me your glory”, and in reponse God (actually it was the angel representing God) revealed to Moses a Glorious Character which is God’s Character. In Exodus 34:6 “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty…”
And so from this and the rest of the Bible we learn that God’s very Purpose is to Cover this Earth with a People who will show in their own lives His Glorious Character. What a wonderful purpose this is and how wonderful for us to be invited to be a part of this.
Literal earth stays in existence.
“Who laid the foundations of the earth, That it should not be moved for ever.” (Psalm 104:5 ASV)
“Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.” (Psalm 119:90 ASV)
“One generation goeth, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4 ASV)
Men can not change Gods intention.
“And the nations were wroth, and thy wrath came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and [the time] to give their reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the small and the great; and to destroy them that destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:18 ASV)
“so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 ASV)
“For The LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall annul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27 ASV)
Symbolic earth shall be abolished.
“but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7 ASV)
“And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid heaven, Come [and] be gathered together unto the great supper of God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit thereon, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, and small and great.” (Revelation 19:17-18 ASV)
“And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone:” (Revelation 19:20 ASV)
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more.” (Revelation 21:1 ASV)
“A noise shall come even to the end of the earth; for The LORD hath a controversy with the nations; he will enter into judgment with all flesh: as for the wicked, he will give them to the sword, saith The LORD.” (Jeremiah 25:31 ASV)
“And the slain of The LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the face of the ground.” (Jeremiah 25:33 ASV)
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger; to make the land a desolation, and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” (Isaiah 13:9 ASV)
“And as [were] the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man.” (Matthew 24:37-39 ASV)
“that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water:” (1 Peter 3:20 ASV)
“And every living thing was destroyed that was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark.” (Genesis 7:23 ASV)
“but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed.” (Luke 17:29-30 ASV)
“Then The LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from The LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before The LORD: and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the Plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt.” (Genesis 19:24-29 ASV)
“Behold, The LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.” (Isaiah 24:1 ASV)
“The earth shall be utterly emptied, and utterly laid waste; for The LORD hath spoken this word.” (Isaiah 24:3 ASV)
“Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are found guilty: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” (Isaiah 24:6 ASV)
“For if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, having made them an example unto those that should live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed [his] righteous soul from day to day with [their] lawless deeds): the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment;” (2 Peter 2:4-9 ASV)
Godless shall be cut off and righteous to stay alive.
“The LORD preserveth all them that love him; But all the wicked will he destroy.” (Psalm 145:20 ASV)
“The righteous shall never be removed; But the wicked shall not dwell in the land.” (Proverbs 10:30 ASV)
“For if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, having made them an example unto those that should live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed [his] righteous soul from day to day with [their] lawless deeds): the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment;” (2 Peter 2:4-9 ASV)
“The wicked are overthrown, and are not; But the house of the righteous shall stand.” (Proverbs 12:7 ASV)
“In the way of righteousness is life; And in the pathway thereof there is no death.” (Proverbs 12:28 ASV)
Blessings by the Kingdom of God shall come unto those who live on the earth.
Reign from heaven and representatives on the earth.
“After this manner therefore pray ye. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” (Matthew 6:9-10 ASV)
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” (Matthew 25:1 ASV)
“I saw in the night–visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14 ASV)
“And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44 ASV)
“Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in justice.” (Isaiah 32:1 ASV)
“Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, Whom thou shalt make princes in all the earth.” (Psalm 45:16 ASV)
There shall be justice.
“But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13 ASV)
“inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31 ASV)
“And his delight shall be in the fear of The LORD; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.” (Isaiah 11:3-5 ASV)
“With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee earnestly: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9 ASV)
“In those days, and at that time, will I cause a Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 33:15 ASV)
“but of the Son [he saith], Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; And the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Hebrews 1:8-9 ASV)
Health and happiness.
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4 ASV)
“Happy is the people that is in such a case; [Yea], happy is the people whose God is The LORD.” (Psalm 144:15 ASV)
“And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” (Isaiah 65:21-22 ASV)
Children shall be brought up under good circumstances.
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17 ASV)
“They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for calamity; for they are the seed of the blessed of The LORD, and their offspring with them.” (Isaiah 65:23 ASV)
“And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1 ASV)
“And righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.” (Isaiah 11:5 ASV)
“And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of The LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:8-9 ASV)
Dead shall stand up.
“Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29 ASV)
“having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:15 ASV)
“Women received their dead by a resurrection: and others were tortured, not accepting their deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:” (Hebrews 11:35 ASV)
“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Revelations 20:12-13 ASV)
Eternal life for those who prove to be obedient.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ASV)
“and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation;” (Hebrews 5:9 ASV)
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more.” (Revelations 21:1 ASV)
“and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.” (Revelations 21:4 ASV)
“For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26 ASV)
“He hath swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord The LORD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for The LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:8 ASV)
“And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, [even] the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14 ASV)
Whole humanity shall be united to honor the one true God.
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of The LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9 ASV)
“For thy Maker is thy husband; The LORD of hosts is his name: and the Holy One of Israel is thy Redeemer; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.” (Isaiah 54:5 ASV)
“And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith The LORD.” (Isaiah 66:23 ASV)
Earth shall become a paradise.
“And he said, Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom. And he said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To–day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43 ASV)
“And The LORD God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (Genesis 2:8 ASV)
“And The LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15 ASV)
“I made me gardens and parks, and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruit;” (Ecclesiastes 2:5 ASV)
Necessaries of life in abundance.
“There shall be abundance of grain in the earth upon the top of the mountains; The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: And they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.” (Psalm 72:16 ASV)
“The earth hath yielded its increase: God, even our own God, will bless us.” (Psalm 67:6 ASV)
“And the tree of the field shall yield its fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land; and they shall know that I am The LORD, when I have broken the bars of their yoke, and have delivered them out of the hand of those that made bondmen of them.” (Ezekiel 34:27 ASV)
Everywhere shall be peace and certainty.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even forever. The zeal of The LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7 ASV)
“and he will judge between many peoples, and will decide concerning strong nations afar off: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning–hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig–tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of The LORD of hosts hath spoken it.” (Micah 4:3-4 ASV)
“And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning–hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4 ASV)
“Come, behold the works of The LORD, What desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariots in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:8-11 ASV)
“And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause evil beasts to cease out of the land; and they shall dwell securely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield its fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land; and they shall know that I am The LORD, when I have broken the bars of their yoke, and have delivered them out of the hand of those that made bondmen of them.” (Ezekiel 34:25-27 ASV)
Animals and humans shall live in peace with each other.
“And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of The LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9 ASV)
“And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the birds of the heavens, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the land, and will make them to lie down safely.” (Hosea 2:18 ASV)
God’s Promises for YOU
God’s Purpose Revealed In His Promises
The Bible gives a consistent message throughout its pages of the purpose of God. His plan is to fill the earth with men and women who show His character and give Him glory. He has given great promises which show the way this will be accomplished when His kingdom will be established in the earth.
In order for God’s purpose to be achieved, He provided His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection men and women have a way of being part of God’s great kingdom if they respond and believe in Him.
In this article we will look at two major promises given before Christ was born which all point forward to Him and His work.
THE PROMISE IN EDEN
Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. Both they and the serpent were punished. Men and women would die, and would be unable to save themselves from this. But a ray of hope for man comes into this dark picture when God says to the serpent:
“I will put enmity (hatred, opposition) between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He (the woman’s seed) shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
A “seed” means a descendant or child, but it can also refer to the people associated with the particular “seed”, i.e. we become the seed of Abraham if we are “in” Jesus by baptism (Galatians 3:27, 29).
The Seed of the Serpent
The serpent, because of his lie, came to represent a sinful way of thinking. The seed of the serpent refers to those with the family likeness of the serpent, those who distort God’s Word, lying and leading others into sin. They allow these characteristics to rule their life. In the time of Christ the corrupt religious rulers were referred to as a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7).
The Seed of the Woman
The seed of the woman refers to one who would bruise or crush the serpent’s head, ie sin, dealing it a death-blow. This was a prophecy of Jesus Christ and his work:
- “Jesus Christ, who has (by the cross) abolished death (and therefore the power of sin – Romans 6:23), and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).
- “God, by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3; see also 1 John 3:5; Matthew 1:21).
Christ was ‘wounded in the heel’ through his death for three days. Yet His resurrection proved that this was only a temporary wound, compared to the death-blow that He gave sin.
What does this mean to us?
On the cross Jesus destroyed the power of sin in Himself. He has invited us to share in His victory. If we are “baptized into Christ” we can share in the promises about Jesus, like that in Genesis 3.15. No longer are they just interesting parts of the Bible, they are prophecies and promises which are made directly to us!
Although sin and death are still experienced by true believers, by being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27-29), they can have forgiveness of their sins now and eventually be saved from death. God has promised a time when the righteous will be raised from the dead and given eternal life:
“The dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).
Jesus was the true ‘seed of the woman’, but we can be part of that seed of the woman too by being baptized into Christ. Our lives will then reflect the words of Genesis 3:15 – there will be a constant sense of conflict (“enmity”) within us, between right and wrong. The great apostle Paul described a conflict between sinful thoughts and the love of God’s ways that raged within him (Romans 7:14-25). But he concludes by saying:
“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
So right from the beginning God promised Christ as a Saviour. This incredible promise given to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden has been fulfilled in Christ, and we too can benefit from it.
THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
The Gospel preached to Abraham
The Gospel taught by Jesus and the apostles was also given in a series of promises to Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. God, through the Scriptures, “Preached the gospel to Abraham” (Galatians 3:8).
If we can understand what was taught to Abraham, we will then have a very basic picture of the Christian Gospel. There are other indications that the Gospel is not something which began at the time of Jesus:
“We declare to you glad tidings (the Gospel) – that promise which was made to the (Jewish) fathers, God has fulfilled” (Acts 13:32,33; see also Romans 1:1,2 Hebrews 4:2).
Two Themes The promises to Abraham have two basic themes:
1. Things about Abraham’s seed (special descendant)
2. Things about the land which was promised to Abraham.
The New Testament comments on these promises. By letting the Bible explain itself, we can combine the teachings of both Testaments to give us a complete picture of the promises made to Abraham.
Abraham – a Man of Faith
Abraham originally lived in Ur, a prosperous city in what is now Iraq. An extraordinary call of God came to him – to leave that sophisticated life and embark on a journey to a promised land. This required faith because exactly where he was to journey was not made completely clear. It turned out to be a 1,500 mile journey. The land was Canaan – modern Israel.
During his life, God appeared to Abraham and repeated and expanded His promises to him. Those promises are the basis of Christ’s Gospel, so that same call comes to true Christians as it did to Abraham, to leave the transient things of this life, and go forward in a life of faith, taking God’s promises at face value and living by His Word.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out (from Ur) to the place (Canaan) which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
By showing a similar faith and acting upon it, we can have the same honour as Abraham – to be called the friends of God (Isaiah 41:8), to find the knowledge of God (Genesis 18:17) and to have the sure hope of eternal life in the Kingdom. To truly believe in the Christian message we, too, must firmly know the promises to Abraham. Without them our faith is not faith. With eager eyes we should therefore read and re-read the dialogues between God and Abraham.
1. “Get out of your country. To a land that I will shew you” (Genesis 12:1).
2. Abraham “went on his journey. as far as Bethel (in Central Israel). And the Lord said to Abram. Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward, and westward: for all the land which you see I give to you, and your descendants forever. walk in the land. for I give it to you” (Genesis 13:3,14-17).
3. “The Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18).)
4. “I will give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8).
5. “The promise that he (Abraham) would be the heir of the world” (Romans 4:13).
We see here a progressive revelation to Abraham:
1. ‘There is a land which I would like you to go to’.
2. ‘You have now arrived in the area. You and your children will live here for ever’.
3. The area of the promised land was more specifically defined.
4. Abraham was not to expect to receive the promise in this life – he was to be a “stranger” in the land, although he would later live there for ever. The implication of this is that he would die and then later be resurrected to enable him to receive this promise.
5. Paul, under inspiration, saw the promises to Abraham as meaning his inheritance of the whole earth.
Abraham did not receive the fulfillment of the promises in his lifetime:-
“By faith he sojourned (implying a temporary way of life) in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents” (Hebrews 11:9).
Abraham “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
Notice the four stages:
1. Knowing the promises;
2. Being “assured of them”;
3. Embracing them – by being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27-29);
4. Confessing to the world by our way of life that this world is not our real home, but we are living in hope of that future age to come upon the earth:
God “gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But. He promised to give it to him for a possession” (Acts 7:5).
God keeps His promises. There will come a day when Abraham and all who have those promises made to them will be rewarded:
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises. God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:13,39,40).
All true believers will therefore be rewarded at the same point in time, i.e. at the judgment seat at the last day (2 Timothy 4:1,8; Matthew 25:31-34). In order to be judged, Abraham and others who knew those promises must be resurrected just before the judgment.
The Seed (offspring, or special descendent)
As with the promise of a seed in Genesis 3:15, this seed of Abraham applies primarily to Jesus and, secondarily, to those who are “in Christ” and therefore are also counted as the seed of Abraham:
1. “I will make you a great nation, I will bless you. and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2,3).
2. “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Genesis 13:15,16). Continued overleaf…
3. “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be. To your descendants I have given this land” (Genesis 15:5,18).
4. “I give to you and your descendants after you. the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8).
5. “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies; In your seed all nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:17,18).
Again, Abraham’s understanding of the “seed” was increased as God gave him further promises:
1. Firstly he was just told that somehow he would have an extraordinary number of descendants, and that through his “seed” the whole earth would be blessed.
2. He was later told that he would have a seed who would come to include many people. These people would spend eternal life, along with himself, in the land at which he had arrived, i.e. Canaan.
3. He was told that his seed would become as many as the stars in the sky. This may have suggested to him that he would have many spiritual descendants (stars in heaven) as well as many natural ones (as “the dust of the earth”).
4. The previous promises were underlined with the additional assurance that the many people who would become part of the seed could have a personal relationship with God.
5. The seed would have victory against his enemies.
Notice that the seed was to bring “blessings” to be available to people from all over the earth. In the Bible the idea of blessing is often connected with forgiveness of sins. After all, this is the greatest blessing a lover of God could ever want. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven” (Psalm 32:1).
The only descendant of Abraham who has brought forgiveness of sins to the world is Jesus, and the New Testament commentary on the promises to Abraham provides solid support:
“He (God) does not say, ‘And to seeds’, as of many (i.e. in the plural), but as of one (in the singular), ‘And to your seed’, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
“…the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus (i.e. the seed), sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:25,26).
Notice here how Peter quotes and interprets Genesis 22:18:
- The seed = Jesus
- The blessing = forgiveness of sins.
Joining The Seed
The basic elements of the Gospel were understood by Abraham. But these vital promises were to Abraham and his seed, Jesus. Can anyone else be involved? Even physical descent from Abraham would not automatically make someone part of that one specific seed (John 8:39). To share these promises we have to become intimately part of Jesus. This is by baptism into Jesus (Romans 6:3-5); frequently we read of baptism into His name (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5).
“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile), there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s (by baptism into him), then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27-29).
The promise of eternal life on earth, through receiving the “blessing” of forgiveness through Jesus is by being baptized into Christ, the seed, so that we can share the promises made to him. Romans 8:17 calls us “joint heirs with Christ”.
The blessing was to come on people from all parts of the earth, through the Christ’s work. The seed was to become a world-wide group of people, like the sand of the shores and the stars of the sky.
We can summarize the two strands of the promises given to Abraham:
1. The Land
Abraham and his seed, Jesus, and those in Him will inherit the land of Canaan and by extension the whole earth, and live there for ever. In this life they would not receive it, but would do so when Jesus returns.
2. The Seed
This was primarily Jesus. Through Him the sins (“enemies”) of mankind would be overcome, so that the blessings of forgiveness would be made available world-wide.
By baptism into the name of Jesus we become part of the seed and share in the promises to Abraham.
The Hope of Israel
Paul could define his hope as “the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20). The true Christian hope is the original Jewish hope, the promises made to Abraham the father of the Jewish people (see also John 4:22).
The Early Christians Preached:
1. “The things concerning the Kingdom of God and
2. The name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12).
These were the very two things explained to Abraham under slightly different headings:
1. Promises about the land and
2. Promises about the seed. The good news about this Kingdom which was preached to Abraham played a big part in the early preaching of the Gospel. (Acts 19:8; 20:25; 28:23,31).
A Life of Faith
Just technically being Abraham’s seed through baptism does not mean that we are acceptable with God. The Israelis are Abraham’s seed naturally speaking, but this does not mean that they can be saved without being baptized and conforming their lives to Christ and the example of Abraham (Romans 9:7,8; 4:13,14).
The “seed” must have the characteristics of its ancestor. If we are to be the true seed of Abraham we must therefore not only be baptized but also have a very real faith in God’s promises, just as he had.
(Abraham) “the father of all those who believe. who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had” (Romans 4:11,12; see also Galatians 3:7).
Real faith must then show itself in action, otherwise, in God’s eyes, it isn’t faith (James 2:17).
Bible Truth about the ANTI-CHRIST
Prophecy Is A Popular Topic Today
Bible prophecy is becoming an extremely popular subject for discussion in today’s
Christian world. Ten or fifteen years ago it was difficult to find any books on prophecy in Bible book stores, but now entire shelves are stocked with them. Furthermore, we find in today’s Christian television and radio programs that prophecy is becoming an increasingly popular subject, and as time goes on, it seems to be gaining a wider audience than ever before.
Many people have now realized that the return of the Jews to their land and the rebirth of the nation of Israel is an example of Bible prophecy being fulfilled in our day. They further have seen that prophecy indicates Jesus Christ will soon return and Russia will eventually attack and temporarily defeat Israel. However, when we examine in more detail the events which will occur at the time of the end, we find there are many interpretations as to when Jesus will return and how the end of this age will come about.
Our Interpretation Of Prophecy Does Matter
It may appear that it does not matter how we interpret prophecy, for how can prophetic events affect our way of life and our salvation? If we look carefully into the Bible, however, we find examples indicating that it does matter how we view Bible prophecy.
One clear example is found in Matthew 24 where Jesus warned the Jews about the coming invasion of the Romans into Jerusalem. Jesus said:
“So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle.” (Matthew 24:15-18)
To the Jews that were living at that time, this was a very important prophecy because the Roman army later surrounded Jerusalem and the Jews who understood the words of Jesus fled from the city and were saved. Those who did not correctly understand this prophecy stayed in the city to be trapped by the Roman army and die in the siege that followed.
Another clear example is found in the Jews’ rejection of Jesus. If the Jewish people had correctly understood the Old Testament prophecies which indicated that their Messiah would have to suffer and even die before he could reign as king, then they would not have rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Tragically, most of the Jews did not understand Bible prophecy correctly, since they expected the Messiah to overthrow the Romans in their day and then establish the kingdom in Israel. Their wrong understanding of prophecy caused them to reject Jesus Christ!
Certainly from these two examples we can see how necessary it is for us to have a correct understanding of Bible prophecies. We also live in an age when we are looking for the Messiah to come and establish his kingdom. No one desires to be in the position where he or she might reject Jesus when he comes because of an incorrect understanding of the prophetic events related to his second coming. Yet the framework has already been laid throughout Christianity for most Christians to do exactly that.
A sudden and rapid change has recently occurred within most Christian churches that has completely altered their prior understanding of the events at Jesus’ second coming. Many of these churches and their leaders have abandoned the original teachings of their founders on this subject and have replaced them with the belief that a satanic man (the future Antichrist) will control the world for 7 years just prior to the return of Jesus. This false teaching is preparing millions of Christians throughout the earth to reject Jesus at his return because they will be convinced, by the things he will do, that he is “the Antichrist” and will oppose him.
Click below for a Video Link to: ‘Who or What Is the Anti-Christ’
Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
This was Peter’s message to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem, fifty days after Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have seen in this series that to ‘repent’ means to change our minds – to see everything in a new way, realizing how far away from God our lives have been, being truly sorry for that, and wanting to please God from now on. This was how the crowd in Jerusalem felt when Peter faced them with the fact that their nation had crucified the Son of God. They wanted to be freed from this terrible guilt, so the next step was to be baptized.
Three years or so earlier at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus himself had been baptized. This was not because he needed forgiveness (he had never sinned) but because he wanted to show to us the right way:
John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him(Matthew 3:14–15).
A New Birth
Soon after Jesus was baptized, his fame began to spread because he was healing many people by the power of God. A visitor came to see him, a high ranking scholar and teacher of the Jewish Law who could see that Jesus was unique. He came to Jesus at night–time, making kind comments, but Jesus went straight to the point:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Even though this man, Nicodemus, was keeping God’s Law, Jesus told him that without this ‘rebirth’ he would never see the Kingdom of God. He had to make a new start, and become a follower of Jesus. So do we.
The sign or symbol of this new birth is baptism. It is essential, Jesus continued:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
Being ‘born of water’ happens at baptism. Being ‘born of the Spirit’ starts when Jesus’ teaching begins to change our characters.
The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63). Then when Jesus returns as King, our bodies too will be changed:
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20–21).
So if Nicodemus really wanted that blessing, he needed to be ‘born of water’: in other words, be baptised.
It is the same for us. That is one of the things that baptism means – it is the start of a new, spiritual life.
Life Out of Death
Baptism is also a picture of us sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. After his own baptism, Jesus tended to concentrate on teaching the crowds while his apostles did the physical act of baptizing those who believed (see John 4:2). Then, after his death and resurrection and before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told them to extend the work of preaching and baptizing worldwide (see Matthew 28:19).
The way that baptisms were done is made very clear in Acts 8:38–9:
“They went down into the water…they came up out of the water.”
This happened in a desert, where all travelers would carry drinking water. If a few drops were sufficient they could have used water from their flask, but they clearly went down into the water.
This is because baptism is like burying an old life and then being raised to a new life, just as Jesus literally was.
“Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Baptism is not a supernatural ritual that works like magic. It is a symbol of us being associated with Christ in his death and in his resurrection.
Being Washed ‘Clean’
This is one more meaning of baptism.
Sin is like being ‘dirty’ in God’s sight, but He wants to forgive us, or make us ‘clean’. When we ask for baptism we are telling God that we accept this, we want to be ‘clean’. Before his conversion, the Apostle Paul (then called Saul) was a fierce persecutor of the followers of Jesus. But Jesus appeared to Saul in all his resurrection glory and Saul was convinced. He was sent to a Christian named Ananias who said this to him:
“Now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Sometime after his great speech in Jerusalem, Peter wrote this:
“Baptism… now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21 ESV).
By John Woodall
BABYLON MYSTERY RELIGION AND ROMAN CATHOLICISM
All Roads Lead to Babylon
There are only two religions: (1) the Truth of the Almighty, as expressed in His Word, the Bible; and (2) every other belief. These two religions cannot be mixed, without disastrous results. Babylon is the source of false religion, Revelation 17:1-6. When John wrote the Revelation, Babylon, as a city, had already been destroyed and left in ruins, as Old Testament prophets had foretold, Isaiah 13:19-22; Jeremiah 51-52. Though the city of Babylon was destroyed, its religious concepts and customs had spread around the world. Today’s myriad of false religions have their origin in ancient Babylon.
Ralph Woodrow, in his book, Babylon Mystery Religion (first published in 1966, now out of print), clearly traces the practices and teachings of ancient Babylon, and their modern counterparts in the Roman Catholic Church and her Protestant daughters. Babylonian ideas are by no means isolated to professing Christianity. Since nominal Christianity is so permeated with false doctrines from Babylon, we should carefully study this problem, so as to avoid Babylonianism. Today, there is an almost irresistible tide within Christianity to turn aside to ideas of Babylon and Catholicism. All too many believers are taking one of the many roads to Rome and Babylon. Here is a summary of Woodrow’s excellent book, Babylon Mystery Religion.
Nimrod and Semiramis
Legends are difficult to prove; they are almost impossible to disprove. Nimrod, the mighty hunter before (against) the Lord, was the first to organize cities into a kingdom under human rule, Genesis 10:8-10. This much we know from the Bible. The name Nimrod comes from the word, marad, meaning “he rebelled.” Legend has it that Nimrod married his own mother, Semiramis. After Nimrod died, Semiramis claimed Nimrod was the sun-god. She later had a child, Tammuz, whom she claimed was Nimrod reborn, supernaturally conceived, the promised seed, the “savior.” Semiramis developed a religion of mother and child worship. Symbols were used to develop a “mystery” religion. Since Nimrod was believed to be the sun-god (Baal), fire was considered his earthly representation. In other forms, Nimrod was symbolized by sun images, fish, trees, pillars, and animals. Tammuz, son of the sun-god, was represented by the golden calf. And so it was, that mankind followed this religion of worshipping the creation (creature) rather than the Creator, Romans 1:21-26.
Whether or not the Nimrod-Semiramis-Tammuz legends are completely historical or not is immaterial. The result of these legends is that mankind in general, has followed variations of one kind or another, of the religion of Babylon, to this day.
Rome, the greatest and longest-lived human world-ruling empire, assimilated religions from her many conquered territories. All these religions had commonalities, for they all came from Babylon. These practices infiltrated and overcame the professing Christian Church, which later came to be dominated by Rome itself.
Mother and Child Worship; Mary Worship
Pictures are worth a thousand words. If you doubt the common origin of many pagan practices, pictures showing the striking similarity should convince you. Many pagan religions had mother and child worship, whether Devaki and Crishna (India), Isis and Horus (Egypt), Venus or Fortuna and Jupiter (Rome), etc. Each nation gave different names to essentially the same god or goddess.
A mother goddess, or “queen of heaven,” was said to have given miraculous birth to a son. Ancient Israel sometimes followed this false religion, Judges 2:13, 10:6; I Samuel 7:3-4, 12:10; I Kings 11:5; II Kings 23:13; Jeremiah 44:17-19, with disastrous results. In Ephesus, Semiramis was worshipped as the great mother Diana, the many-breasted goddess. This form of mother-child worship was followed throughout all Asia and the world, Acts 19:27.
Mary worship had no place in the early Christian Church. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia (article, “Virgin Mary,” pp. 459-460) admits that in the first centuries, A.D., there are no traces of the worship of Mary. By the fourth century, the time of Emperor Constantine, worshipping Mary as a goddess and offering cakes at her shrine, began to come into the professing Church. In A.D. 431, the Council of Ephesus made Mary worship official. By mixing beliefs already being practiced (Diana of Ephesus worshipped as a goddess) with nominal Christianity, so-called Church “fathers” reasoned that they could gain more converts. It is the same old story. Apostates believe that lowering God’s standards results in a better form of religion, more acceptable and popular to the masses.
The Bible is clear that there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ, I Timothy 2:5. Yet Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary is also a “mediator.” Catholics offer prayers to Mary, burn candles to Mary, and have statues of Mary, which came directly from their pagan counterparts. Isis, the Egyptian goddess, was known as “mother of God,” just as Mary is titled by Catholics. Weigall, in The Paganism in Our Christianity, page 129, says, “When Christianity triumphed, these paintings and figures became those of the madonna and child, without any break in continuity: no archaeologist, in fact, can now tell whether some of these objects represent the one or the other.”
In pagan religion, the mother was worshipped as much (or more) than her son! Noted Roman Catholic writer Alphonsus Liguori stressed that prayers addressed to Mary are much more effectual than to Christ. Mary is deified as the “queen of heaven,” born without sin (Immaculate Conception), the “mother of God,” exactly as pagan worshippers deified Isis, Venus, Ashtoreth, etc. Jesus did not teach that Mary was superior to other human beings. When someone mentioned His mother and brethren, Jesus asked, “Who is My mother? and who are My brethren?” Then, stretching forth His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brethren! For WHOSOEVER shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and MOTHER,” Matthew 12:46-50. Anyone who does the will of God is on the same level as Mary.
Closely associated with praying to Mary is the rosary, a chain of fifteen sets of small beads, marked off by one large bead. The ends of the chain are joined by a medal with an imprint of Mary, from which hangs a short chain with a crucifix at the end. The use of prayer-counters or rosary beads is an almost universal custom in pagan religion. From Nineveh to India to China, beads were used as a part of worship. The Phoenicians used a circle of beads resembling a rosary in the worship of Astarte, the mother goddess, as early as 800 B.C. Francis Xavier was astonished to see that rosaries were universally familiar to the Buddhists of Japan.
The main prayer of the rosary is the “Hail Mary.” The complete rosary repeats the Hail Mary 53 times, the Lord’s Prayer 6 times, and several other recitations. The Hail Mary combines the statement of the angel about Mary from the Bible with unscriptural blasphemy, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women Jesus [a loose translation of Luke 1:28], and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death, Amen.” Mary was not the mother of God, she was not holy, she was a righteous woman who is dead in her grave, waiting for the resurrection to eternal life, with all the other dead in Christ.
The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “There is little or no trace of the Hail Mary as an accepted devotional formula before about 1050,” article “Hail Mary,” p. 111. Jesus instructs us not to use vain repetitions when we pray, Matthew 6:7-8. The so-called “Lord’s Prayer” verses 9-13, was a model prayer, not a prayer to be monotonously repeated. Jesus said in effect “pray thus” (after this manner therefore pray ye), not “pray this.” Prayer should be spontaneous, not rote memory with no heart-felt meaning.
Many Gods, Statues, Pictures
There is only one God family, composed of the Father and the Son. We have direct access to God through the blood of Jesus Christ, Hebrews 4:14-16, 9:12, 10:10. Roman Catholics honor and pray to various special “saints,” canonized by the church hierarchy. According to the Bible, ALL true Christians are saints (Ephesians 1:1, etc.). If we want a saint to pray for us, it must be a living person. If we try to commune with people that have died, this is a form of spiritism. The so-called “Apostles’ Creed” says, “I believe . . . in the communion of the saints,” supposing that prayers are effectual, to and for the dead. Babylonian religion had a plurality of gods, some 5,000 gods and goddesses, once heroes on the earth, but now elevated on a higher spiritual plane. Every month and every day of the month was under the protection of a particular divinity. In exactly the same way, Roman Catholics have “saints” for almost every day of the year, for occupations, for specific problems. St. Clare is the saint for television, St. Denis for headaches, St. Hadrian for butchers, etc.
Now, why pray to dead saints when Christians have access directly to God? Catholics are taught that they should pray to Mary and other dead saints to obtain help that God would not otherwise give! In other words, God cannot be depended upon or trusted; we should pray to Him through Mary and the saints, who supposedly are more kind and loving than God Himself. In church buildings of Europe today, it is not uncommon to have two, three, or four thousand statues. Those who bow and worship before statues know fully well that the statue is not “god,” but only representative of god. Catholics, like pagans, know that the statues they worship are not god. However, this excuse does not get around Exodus 20:4-5, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is underneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them.”
The Bible instructed the ancient Israelites not to adopt the idols of pagans into the true worship of Yahweh. “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire; thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein; for it is an abomination to the Lord,” Deuteronomy 7:25. Israelites were to “destroy all their pictures,” Numbers 33:52.
Pagans placed a circle or aureole (disk of the sun-god) around the heads of those who were “gods” in their pictures. This practice continued right into the Romish church.
For the first four centuries, the church used no pictures of Christ. Since Christ is now glorified on the right hand of the Father, no picture could come close to doing Him justice! We do not need, nor should we have, statues, pictures, or representations of God and Christ.
Obelisks, Temples, and Towers
The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., is modeled after an Egyptian obelisk. According to Diodorus, Queen Semiramis in Babylon erected a 130-foot tall obelisk. The obelisk was popular in Egypt, associated with sun-worship. The erect upright pointed column represents the phallus, the male sex organ, of Baal (Nimrod). Here we see a common theme of Babylonian worship: emphasis on perverted sexuality. The Bible mentions such “standing images,” matzebah, I Kings 14:23; II Kings 18:4, 23:14; Jeremiah 43:13; Micah 5:13, and “sun images,” hammanim, Isaiah 17:8, 27:9. God will not forever allow these standing images to remain, but will cast them down.
The “image of jealousy” erected in the entry to the Temple, was probably an obelisk, symbol of the phallus, Ezekiel 8:5. It was common to place an obelisk at the entrance of a heathen temple. And so it is, that at the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in Rome, there is an Egyptian obelisk. This is not a copy of an Egyptian obelisk, as is the Washington Monument. It is the same obelisk that stood in Egypt in ancient times at the pagan temple of Heliopolis (city of the sun-god). Emperor Caligula, in 37-41 A.D., hauled it from Egypt to Rome at great expense, to his circus on Vatican Hill. Heliopolis is the Greek name of the Hebrew Beth-shemesh (house of the sun), which was the center of ancient Egyptian sun-worship. Obelisks that stood there are called “images of Bethshemesh,” Jeremiah 43:13. In 1586, Pope Sixtus V had the 83-foot high 320-ton obelisk moved to the center front of St. Peter’s square, where it resides today, symbolic of the merger of Egyptian sun-worship with professing Christianity.
God’s people do not have an edifice complex. Those who have the Holy Spirit are the temple of God, I Corinthians 3:16. There is no record of a church building (as such) being built prior to A.D. 222-235. It is not wrong to have Church buildings, but false believers embellished their halls of worship with pagan spires similar to pagodas and shrines of idolatrous worshippers. “There is evidence to show that the spires of our churches owe their existence to the uprights or obelisks outside the temples of former ages,” Brown, Sex Worship and Symbolism of Primitive Races, p. 38. “There are still in existence today remarkable specimens of original phallic symbols . . . steeples on the churches . . . and obelisks . . . all show the influence of our phallus-worshipping ancestors,” Eichler, The Customs of Mankind, p. 55.
Cross Not a Christian Symbol
One of the most important symbols of Catholics and Protestants is the cross. The priest makes the sign of the cross on the head of infants as they are sprinkled; churches are built in the shape of the cross; when Catholics enter church, they take “holy water” and make the sign of the cross; during Mass, the priest makes the sign of the cross 16 times and blesses the altar with the cross 30 times. The cross is universally worn as jewelry around the neck, and is prominent in professing Christian homes.
Early Christians considered the cross as “the accursed tree,” a device of death and “shame,” Hebrews 12:2. They did not trust in an old rugged cross. Instead, their faith was in what was accomplished on the cross (or stake, or whatever it was Jesus was impaled upon). That is how the Apostles preached about the cross, I Corinthians 1:17-18.
It was not until Christianity became paganized (or paganism was Christianized), when the cross image came to be thought of as a Christian symbol, part of worship. Crosses in churches was introduced in A.D. 431; the use of crosses on steeples did not come about until about 586. The Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says the cross originated among the Babylonians of ancient Chaldea, used as a symbol of the god Tammuz. Almost any book of ancient Egypt shows the use of the Tau cross (shaped like the letter “T”) on old monuments and walls of ancient temples. Seymour says that the cross, unchanged for thousands of years, “was reverenced . . . among the Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Mexicans, and every ancient people of both hemispheres,” The Cross in Tradition, History, and Art, pp. 22, 26. The cross had been a sacred symbol of India for centuries among non-Christians. Prescott reports that when the Spaniards first landed in Mexico, they were shocked to behold the cross, sacred emblem of their own Catholic faith, reverenced in Aztec temples. A heathen temple in Palenque, Mexico, founded in the ninth century B.C., was known as “The Temple of the Cross.” Ancient Mexicans worshipped a cross as tota (our father), similar to apostate Israelites who worshipped a piece a wood as “my father,” Jeremiah 2:27. In 46 B.C., Roman coins show Jupiter holding a long sceptre terminating in a cross. Vestal virgins (temple prostitutes) of pagan Rome wore the cross suspended from their necklaces, as Roman Catholic nuns do today.
“Since Jesus died on a cross,” some say, “doesn’t that make it a Christian symbol?” Let us suppose He was put to death with a hatchet; would this be a reason to venerate the hatchet? Again, the important thing is not the way Jesus died, but who died (the son of God), and why He died (for the sins of mankind). Crucifixion was a common method of execution for flagrant crimes in Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Palestine, Carthage, Greece, and Rome. Seymour reports, “Tradition ascribes the invention of the punishment of the cross to a woman, the queen Semiramis,” (Ibid., p. 64).
Relics of Romanism
Pagans regarded the cross as a protector. Ancient Italians placed a cross upon the tombs. In like manner, uneducated professing Christians today use the cross in their homes to ward off trouble and disease. In ancient Israel, a plague of serpents afflicted the Israelites. Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it on a pole, and if anyone who was bitten by a serpent looked upon the brasen serpent, they lived, Numbers 21:9. Lifting up the serpent in the wilderness was a type of the way Christ would be lifted up on the stake, John 3:14. After the brasen serpent had served its purpose, the Israelites kept it around and made an idol out of it. Centuries later, Hezekiah broke in pieces the brasen serpent, because Israel was burning incense to it, II Kings 18:1-4. Even items which God used for His purpose, if looked at for themselves and not for the God who used them, can become objects of idolatry. The cross has served its purpose. Jesus rose from the dead. Let us not worship the cross and other relics.
Among the most venerated objects of worship are supposed “relics,” or pieces, of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. If all the pieces were gathered together, they would fill a good-sized ship. Catholics believe that the house in which Mary lived in Nazareth is now in the little town of Loreto, Italy, having been transported there by angels. The “holy house” of Loreto is one of the most famous shrines of Italy, honored by more than 47 popes. Veneration of the dead bodies of martyrs was ordered by the Council of Trent, which condemned those who did not believe in relics. Bones are placed beneath a church, in the belief that saints’ bones “consecrate” the ground and building. The Castle Church at Wittenberg, the door of which Luther nailed his “Ninety-five Theses,” had 19,000 relics of dead “saints.” The second Nicean Council in 787 decreed it illegal to dedicate a building if no relics were present, on penalty of excommunication.
Adoring the bones of the dead is a direct carry-over from paganism. In legend, when Nimrod, the false “savior” of Babylon, died, his body was torn limb from limb, and buried in various places. His “resurrection” to a new body, becoming the sun-god, left behind his old body. This contrasts with the death of the True Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, “a bone of Him shall not be broken,” John 19:36; who was resurrected in the true sense of the word, leaving behind no body parts for relics. In the old mystery religion, bones of hero-gods consecrated shrines, and relics were worshipped. In God’s wisdom, however, He secretly buried Moses to ensure nobody would venerate His servant Moses, Deuteronomy 34:5-6.
So, why should we venerate bones and relics (articles of clothing, etc.) of the saints? The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “no dishonor is done to God by the continuance of an error which has been handed down for many centuries . . . . Hence there is justification for the practice of the Holy See in allowing the cult of certain doubtful relics to continue,” article “Relics,” p. 738.
Don’t believe the religious fakery of relic worship, of those who claim to have a bone of Joseph, some of the hair of Mary, the shroud of Turin, or what have you. Worship God the Creator. The monks of Charroux (as well as three other churches in France, Rome, and Italy) claim to have the foreskin of the baby Jesus. May the Eternal guide us to His True worship, in Spirit and Truth, not religious lies and shady salesmanship.
Pay for Forgiveness of Sins or Suffer?
Do you believe that Christ paid the penalty for ALL your sins? I do! Yet, Catholics believe that sins committed after (infant) baptism can be forgiven, “but there still remains the temporal punishment required by Divine justice, and this requirement must be fulfilled either in the present life or in the world to come [i.e., Purgatory]. An indulgence offers the penitent sinner the means of discharging this debt during this life on earth,” Catholic Encyclopedia, article “Indulgences,” p. 783. The basis for indulgences (still a belief of Catholics) is the “Treasury” of merits of Christ and the saints.
However, since Christ “is the propitiation for our sins,” and His blood “cleanseth us from all sin,” I John 2:2, 1:7, how can the merits of Mary and other saints possibly add to this? During the Middle Ages, Popes authorized the mass sale of indulgences throughout Europe, a practice of which Luther spoke out against. During World War II, the Archbishop of Winnipeg, in a letter dated March 1, 1944, urged Roman Catholic mothers to guarantee the salvation of their sons from Purgatory by the payment to him of $40 for prayers and masses in their behalf. No amount of money can pay for our sins or guarantee salvation. It is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, Matthew 19:23-24; in the Catholic Church it is easy for the rich to have many masses said for them. The wealthy cannot redeem themselves, Psalm 49:6-7. We are “NOT redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” I Peter 1:18-19. When the former Samaritan sorcerer Simon offered money to obtain a gift of God, Peter said literally, “To hell with you and your money! How dare you think you could buy the gift of God?” Acts 8:20, J.B. Phillips translation.
Catholic teaching about Purgatory, a place for the dead to further pay for their sins before being allowed to enter Heaven, is non-Biblical, and was not the teachings of Christ or the Apostles. It was not commonly believed until about 600 when Pope Gregory created the third state for the purification of souls, and did not become actual dogma until the Council of Florence in 1459.
Once again, beliefs about a purgatory abound in pagan culture. Plato (427-347 B.C.) spoke of a place of torment to make amends for crimes of oneself or ones ancestors. Chinese Buddhists came to buy prayers for deliverance of their dead ones from purgatory, from special shops set up for that purpose. Zoroastrians teach of a place of purification. Moslems may escape purgatory by giving money to a religious leader. Israelites were warned not to give money “for the dead,” Deuteronomy 26:14. Alexander Hislop concludes, “In every system, therefore, except that of the Bible, the doctrine of purgatory after death, and prayers for the dead, has always been found to occupy a place,” Two Babylons, p. 167.
Molech worship was an example of various pagan systems which believed that fire was necessary to cleanse one from sin. Israelites were repeatedly forbidden to let their seed “pass through the fire to Molech,” Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:35; II Kings 23:10. Molech (whom some identify with Bel or Nimrod), was worshipped with human sacrifices, purifications, mutilation, vows of celibacy and virginity, etc. Sometimes, Molech was represented as an idol with fire inside, so a baby placed in his arms was consumed. Lest the parents should relent, a noise of loud drums was sounded at the moment of fiery sacrifice to hide the screams. The word for drums is tophim, from which comes the word, “Tophet,” Jeremiah 7:31.
Payments, mutilations, and all human efforts are insufficient and worthless in purging our sins. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9.
Pope: Vicar of Christ or Anti-Christ?
At the top of the Roman Catholic hierarchy is the Pope, said to be the successor of the Apostle Peter. The entire framework of Roman Catholicism is based on the claim that Peter was Rome’s first bishop. Scriptures show an equality among members of the Church. Christ, not the Pope, “is the head of the Church,” Ephesians 5:23. Religious hierarchies are not godly, and condemned by Christ, Mark 10:35-43. We are not to use the flattering title “father” (the word Pope means father), Rabbi, or Master, because we are all brethren, Matthew 23:4-10. The scripture says that Christ, not Peter, is the Rock upon which the Church is to be built, Matthew 16:18. Peter himself declared that Christ was the foundation rock, I Peter 2:4-8. The Church was built on Christ, Acts 4:11-12; I Corinthians 3:11.
Not until the time of Calixtus, who was Bishop of Rome from A.D. 218-223, was Matthew 16:18 used in an attempt to prove the Church was built upon Peter. Peter was not a Pope! He was married, Matthew 8:14; I Corinthians 9:5. Peter would not allow men to bow down to him, Acts 10:25-26. Peter did not place tradition on a level with the word of God, I Peter 1:18. On the day of Pentecost, Peter did not ask people to have a little water poured on them, but “Repent and be baptized [immersed] everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost [Spirit],” Acts 2:38. Peter was no Pope, for he wore no crown; he was looking forward to the crown of glory at the resurrection, I Peter 5:4. In short, Peter never acted like a Pope, never dressed like a Pope, never spoke like a Pope, never wrote like a Pope, and people did not approach him as a Pope.
As shown on Pentecost, Peter did take a prominent position of leadership in the early Church. His name is always listed first among the apostles, Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13. But, Paul was not behind the chiefest of the apostles, II Corinthians 12:11. Peter, James, and John were pillars in the Church, Galatians 2:9. Paul wrote 2,325 verses of the New Testament, while Peter wrote only 166 verses. Paul stood up to Peter when he was to be blamed, Galatians 2:11. This would be strange were Peter an “infallible” Pope!
Paul was called “the Apostle of the Gentiles,” Romans 11:13, whereas Peter’s ministry was primarily to the Jews, Galatians 2:7-9. Rome was the chief Gentile city. It is likely that the Apostle Peter never went to Rome, even though tradition says he did (A.D. 42-67). In 44, Peter was in Jerusalem at the Council; about 53, Paul joined him in Antioch (Galatians 2:11). About A.D. 58, Paul wrote his letter to the Christians at Rome, greeting twenty-seven persons, but never mentions Peter. There was, however, a “peter” who did go to Rome. Details on this history is given in the article, “Simon Magus,” by Ernest L. Martin.
Simon the sorcerer of Samaria was a leader in the mystery religion. The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that Justin Martyr and other early writers inform us that Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:5-25) afterwards went to Rome, worked miracles by the power of demons, received divine honors, and “no doubt founded some sort of religion as a counterfeit of Christianity which he claimed to play a part analogous to that of Christ,” article “Impostors,” p. 699.
In ancient Chaldea, the Supreme Pontiff of paganism bore the title “peter,” (interpreter or opener of the mysteries). The Hebrew word “peter,” is translated “openeth” in verses like Exodus 13:2. From Pergamos on the west coast of what is now Turkey, the headquarters of paganism shifted to Rome. In 63 B.C., Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was officially recognized as the “Pontifex Maximus.” Subsequent Roman Emperors continued to be heads of the mystery religion until A.D. 378, when Demasus, bishop of Rome, was elected Pontifex Maximus. Subsequent Popes have continued to hold this pagan title.
In Mithraism, one of the main branches of mystery religions which came to Rome, the sun-god carried two keys. Romans believed in Janus, who held keys. Keys are symbolic of the authority to open and close. “Pontiff” means “bridge-maker,” one who can open and shut doors. In Matthew 16:19, Christ said, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.” The key given to Peter and all the other disciples was the message of the gospel, whereby people could enter the kingdom of God. In pagan religion, however, the keys represented religious rulership over the people, which is contrary to the Bible. The head priest of Mithraism was called the Pater Patrum, or Father of Fathers, exactly as the title of the Pope (papa).
Vestments of the Roman clergy are direct legacies from pagan Rome. Dagon, the fish-god (dag in Hebrew means fish), was popular among the heathen Philistines, Judges 16:21-30; I Samuel 5:5-6. Priests of Dagon had a fish mitre on their head, and a fan-like tail of a fish as part of their garments, just like the pope and Catholic leaders do today.
Processions of the Pope, being carried on a chair in full regalia with a giant feather fan, are copied from Egyptian priest-king processions.
It is no secret that many Popes in the Middle Ages were some of the most sexually vile, evil, wicked, murderous individuals of all time. Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) was singularly wicked, who said “to enjoy oneself and to lie carnally with women or with boys is no more a sin than rubbing one’s hands together.” Yet, this was the Pope who in 1302 issued the well-known Unam Sanctum which officially declared that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church, outside of which no one can be saved, and says, “We, therefore, assert, define and pronounce that it is necessary to salvation to believe that every human being is subject to the Pontiff of Rome.” Should a sinful Pope be obeyed? Here is the official Catholic affirmation: “A sinful pope . . . remains a member of the (visible) church and is to be treated as a sinful, unjust ruler for whom we must pray, but from whom we may not withdraw our obedience,” Catholic Encyclopedia, article “Councils,” p. 435. The Truth is, that salvation is not dependent upon a line of wicked men who claim to trace their authority back to Peter. Salvation is found in Christ alone!
Although six Popes rejected the idea that Popes are infallible, in 1870, the Vatican Council nevertheless made papal infallibility a church dogma. This teaching says that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra (i.e., in his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians), and defines a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the entire church, that he is infallible, and consequently such decisions are irreformable.
However, Pope after Pope contradicted previous Popes. And, Popes have taken to themselves lofty titles, such as “Most Holy Lord,” “Vicar of Christ,” “the mouth of Jesus Christ,” etc. On June 20, 1894, Pope Leo XIII said, “We hold upon the earth the place of God Almighty.”
As early as 1612, Andreas Helwig pointed out in his book, Roman Antichrist, that the title “Vicar of Christ” in Latin, Vicarivs Filii Dei, has a numerical value of 666 (see Revelation 13:18). Numerous other names and titles add up to the same auspicious number. The original name of Rome was Saturnia, the secret name revealed only to initiates of the Chaldean mysteries, which in Chaldean was spelled STUR. In their language, S represented 60, T was 400, U was 6, and R was 200, for a total of 666. Nero Caesar in Hebrew comes to 666. The Greek letters of the word Lateinos (Latin) come to 666, as well as the Hebrew of Romulus, Romiith, the founder of Rome. The six letters which make up the Roman numeral system also add up to 666. D=500, C=100, L=50, X=10, V=5, I=1. In the Bible itself, we read that each year, King Solomon received 666 talents of gold, I Kings 10:14. Wealth played an important part in leading him astray. In the New Testament, the letters of the Greek word euporia, translated “wealth,” in Acts 19:25,add up to 666, as does the word paradosis, translated “tradition” in Matthew 15:2. Wealth and tradition were the two great corruptors of the Roman Church, then and now. Wealth corrupted practice and honesty; tradition corrupted doctrine.
Inquisition, Then and Now
Numerous Popes promulgated “bulls,” official documents, which encouraged torture and murder of those who opposed the Roman Catholic religious system. The methods of gruesome torture devised during the period of the Inquisition are a testimony to the corrupt influence of Satanically-inspired human beings apart from God. Ten thousand Huguenots (French Protestants) were killed in the bloody Paris massacre on “St. Bartholomew’s Day,” 1572. The French king went to mass to return solemn thanks that so many “heretics” were slain. The papal court rejoiced at the news, and Pope Gregory XIII in grand procession, went to the Church of St. Louis to offer thanks. Inquisition was ordered by papal decree and confirmed by Pope after Pope.
This does not detract from Hitler’s Pope, Pius XII, who abetted the Nazi regime. Hitler would never have come to power had it not been for Catholic support. While Jews and others died in Nazi concentration camps, the Pope and others who knew what was going on were silent. And, after the war, the church was instrumental in helping Nazis to escape via the infamous “ratlines.”
There appears to be nothing new, no change of heart, in the Roman system. Repentance, not political apologies, is the only avenue for those enmeshed in the Romish system of Babylon. The way to repent for papists is to renounce the Babylonish system, to come out of her.
“Lords Over God’s Heritage”
The highest-ranking officials of the Roman Catholic Church, next to the Pope, are cardinals. You won’t find cardinals mentioned in the Bible. The original cardinals were a group of leading priests in the ancient pagan religion of Rome, long before the Christian era. The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin cardo, meaning “hinge,” those who were pivotal leaders. They were priests of Janus, the pagan god of doors and hinges. Even today, the word, “janitor,” a keeper of doors, comes from Janus, known as “the opener and shutter.” As we know, only Christ opens and shuts doors, Revelation 3:7-8. Hislop reports, “The college of Cardinals, with the Pope at its head, is just the counterpart of the pagan college of Pontiffs, with its Pontifex Maximus, or Sovereign Pontiff, which is known to have been framed on the model of the grand original Council of Pontiffs at Babylon,” Two Babylons, p. 206. Cardinals wear red garments. It not surprising that images of Chaldeans had vermillion (bright red). From ancient times, red or scarlet has been associated with sin, Isaiah 1:18. Adultery is sometimes called the scarlet sin, and houses of prostitution are in the “red light district.”
Bishops are mentioned in the Bible, but here again, Catholic tradition perverts the Truth. The word, “cathedral,” comes from cathedra, meaning “throne.” A cathedral, unlike other churches, is one in which the throne of a bishop is located. Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7 indicate that bishops, elders, pastors, overseers, are the same office. Each Church had several elders who were also bishops. We are warned to avoid the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which comes from the word nikao, “to conquer,” and laos, “laity,” which refers to the notion of a priestly order over the people. Peter instructs Church leaders not to be “lords over God’s heritage,” I Peter 5:1-3. The word translated “heritage” is kleeron, which means “clergy.” All spirit-begotten children of God are His heritage, His “clergy.” God has a ministry for all His people, not just a special priestly class. Elders (plural) are to be ordained in every city, Acts 14:19-23; James 5:14. We believers are a royal priesthood, Revelation 1:6; I Peter 2:9. We are not to give flattering titles to religious leaders, Job 32:21; Matthew 23:9-12. “Pope” is a variation of the title “father,” Catholic priests are called “fathers.” And so it was that in one of the leading branches of the mystery religion which came to Rome, Mithraism, the priests were called “fathers,” and the head priest who always lived at Rome was called Pater Patrrum, “father of fathers.” Since Christ told us not to call religious leaders “father,” and pagan priests of Rome used this title, did the Catholics get this practice from the Bible, or from paganism?
The Bible gives us an example of a pagan priest being called “father,” Judges 17:10. Catholics use the title, “Monsignor,” meaning “My Lord.” One of the meanings of “arch” is master, and Catholics use titles such as archbishop, archpriest, and archdeacon. Not to be outdone, English clergy uses titles such as “The Reverend,” “The Right Reverend,” etc., while the Bible uses “reverend” only in reference to God Himself, Psalm 111:9.
Sexual excess goes hand in hand with celibacy. Strange as it sounds, it is said that Queen Semiramis invented clerical celibacy (Hislop, p. 219). When the worship of Cybele, the Babylonian goddess, was introduced into pagan Rome, it came in its primitive form, with its celibate clergy. As in pagan times, temple celibates were actually involved in licentious sexual practices. “Forbidding to marry” led to sexual license. This has shown its ugly head many times during the history of the Roman Catholic Church, although doubtless, many priests have been faithful to their vows of celibacy.
Forbidding priests to marry (contrary to I Timothy 4:1-3), along with the practice of the confessional was bound to cause some weak individuals to sin. There is a tremendous power that a priest has over someone that is bound to divulge their sins to a priest, a practice held to be necessary for salvation. The Bible says we should confess our faults one to another, James 5:16, not to a priest. The idea of confessing to a priest came, not from the Bible, but from Babylon. Secret confession was required before complete initiation was granted into the Babylonian mysteries. Such priestly confession was practiced in Medo-Persia, Egypt, and Rome, long before the Christian Era.
Almost everywhere you look at the Romish system, you find pagan origins. Even the usual black color of clergy garments worn by priests and some Protestants, follows the custom of the priests of Baal, chemarims, who wore black garments, Zephaniah 1:4; II Kings 23:5. As Adam Clarke notes, they were called kemarim, from camar, which means dark, black. He says that Jews today call Christian missionaries kemarim, because of their black clothes and garments. Another practice of the Catholic priesthood is that of tonsure, the rite of shaving the top of the head in a round circle. Buddhist priests, the priests of Osiris of Egypt, priests of Bacchus, and Mithra priests, also practiced tonsure, the round tonsure imitating a solar disk. Such was forbidden of God’s people, “They shall not make baldness upon their head,” Leviticus 21:5, 19:27.
Any similarity between the Catholic ministry and hierarchy, and true ministers of God, is purely accidental.
The Idolatrous Mass
The Catholic Encyclopediastates, “In the celebration of the Holy Mass, the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. It is called transubstantiation, for in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of bread and wine do not remain, but the entire substance of bread is changed into the body of Christ, and the entire substance of wine is changed into his blood, the species or outward semblance of bread and wine alone remaining,” article, “Consecration,” p. 277.
Jesus, in His last Passover meal with the disciples, said of the bread, “Take eat; this is my body,” and of the cup, “Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood,” Matthew 26:26-28. Was this meant to be taken literally or symbolically? The Bible answers clearly. When some of David’s men risked their lives to bring him water from Bethlehem, he refused it, saying, “Is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?” II Samuel 23:17. The Bible speaks of Jesus as a “door,” “vine,” and “rock,” John 10:9, 15:5; I Corinthians 10:4, and we recognize these statements as figurative and symbolic.
If the wine of the communion table became actual blood, to drink it would be forbidden by the Bible, Deuteronomy 12:16; Acts 15:20. Many Christian martyrs have lost their lives rather than partake of the idolatrous mass, in which the priest claims to literally have the power to create God. The Council of Trent proclaimed that belief in transubstantiation was essential to salvation. In offering up the mass, the priest believes he is actually sacrificing Christ, a renewal of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The Bible, however, says Christ gave His life by one sacrifice for ever, Hebrews 10:10-14, 9:25-28.
After the priest blesses the bread (thinks he changes it into Christ), he places a wafer in the center of a sunburst stand called the monstrance. Catholics bow and worship this wafer god. Likewise, in Egypt, a cake was consecrated by a priest and was supposed to become the flesh of Osiris. Similar rites occurred in Mithraism and in ancient Mexico. Heathen priests ate a portion of all sacrifices. In cases of human sacrifice, priests of Baal were required to eat human flesh. Thus we have the word, “cannibal,” which comes from “Cahan-Bal,” priest of Baal.
The wafer of Eucharist is round. Jesus, at His last Passover, merely broke the unleavened bread, which does not break into round pieces. Round wafers are another symbol of Baal, or the sun. Round cakes were used in the ancient mysteries of Egypt, Mithraism, and elsewhere. Sun images adorn the top of the famous baldachinum, the 95-foot high canopy inside the Vatican. Israelite reformers broke down the altars of Baal and the sun images (margin), II Chronicles 34:4. The round Eucharist wafers often have a cross on them, exactly as Assyrian wafers used in worship. Passover is observed at night, but Catholics usually observe Mass in the early morning, similar to Mithraists who observed their sacred meetings in the early morning in honor of the sun. Contrast the elaborate ritual of the idolatrous Catholic Mass to the simple Christian Passover!
Three Days and Three Nights
In Chapter 18, Woodrow provides clear proof for a Wednesday crucifixion, Sabbath resurrection, with Jesus in the tomb exactly three days and three nights, 72 hours, as He said in Matthew 12:40.
The strongest proof of this fact is Mark 16:1 and Luke 23:56. In Mark 16:1-2, we read, “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices that they might come and anoint Him, and very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” The Interlinear Bible shows that “bought” rather than “had bought” is the proper translation. Note that it is “bought,” not “brought.” It was after the Sabbath when these women bought their spices. Then, Luke 23:56 reports that after seeing Jesus’ body in the sepulchre, the women “returned, and prepared spices and ointments: and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” There were two Sabbaths in question here: the annual Sabbath (first day of Unleavened Bread, see John 19:14, 31), and the weekly Sabbath.
Jesus kept the fourteenth Passover on Tuesday evening. He was crucified and buried on Wednesday, Passover day. Thursday was the high day annual Sabbath. The women bought burial spices on Friday, prepared them, and then rested on the weekly Sabbath. On the first day of the week they came to anoint Jesus’ body but found the tomb empty because He was risen. Surely, the commonly accepted Good Friday, Easter Sunday resurrection is a false tradition of men!
Fish on Friday, Easter Customs
The Catholic practice of abstaining from red meat on Friday, and instead eating fish on Friday, is derived from their false teaching of a Friday crucifixion. Scriptures never associate fish with Friday. The word “Friday” comes from “Freya,” the teutonic fertility goddess symbolized by fish, who lay prolific amounts of eggs. Freya is the same as the Roman Venus, goddess of fertility, for whom the fish was regarded as sacred. Likewise, in the Israelite worship of Ashtoreth and Egyptian worship of Isis, the fish symbolized the fertility goddess.
In Acts 12:4, “Easter” is a mistranslation. The Greek word is pascha, which means Passover. There is no association between the Biblical Passover and the pagan Easter spring festival. Easter comes from Astarte or Ishtar. Easter customs, such as colored eggs, come from Babylon. The Babylonians believed a huge egg fell from heaven into the Eurphrates River, from which Astarte (Easter) was hatched. Colored Easter eggs symbolize the fertility goddess Easter.
The Catholic Encyclopediaadmits that “Because the use of eggs was forbidden during Lent, they were brought to the table of Easter Day, colored red to symbolize the Easter joy. . . . The custom may have its origin in paganism, for a great many pagan customs celebrating the return of spring, gravitated to Easter.” The Encylopaedia Britannica notes, “The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.”
Sunrise worship has long been associated with paganism. From Japanese Shintoists to pagan Mithrists of Rome, meeting together to worship facing the rising sun has long been practiced. Priests of Baal first began their worship in the morning, I Kings 18:26. The Bible condemns pagan sun worship, Ezekiel 8:16. Jesus was not resurrected at sunrise on Sunday morning, but just before sunset on Saturday afternoon. Once again, pagan customs have been freely incorporated into Catholic worship practice.
Legend has it that Tammuz was killed by a wild boar when he was forty years old. Forty days were set aside to weep for Tammuz, with fasting, weeping, and self-chastisement. See Ezekiel 8:14. This observance was known not only in Babylon, but also among the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Mexicans, and for a time, even among the Israelites. The Catholic Encyclopedia admits there are no apostolic observances of Lent, which was not commanded by the Pope until the sixth century, when Catholics were ordered not to eat meat for forty days of Lent.
The word “ChrIstmas” is a contradictory word. It links “Christ,” the Son of God, with “mass,” the idolatrous and blasphemous Roman Catholic ritual. Jesus could not have been born on December 25. Shepherds in Judaea brought their flocks in for the winter before the end of October. The Catholic Encyclopedia admits, “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts.” It was not until late in the fourth century when the Roman Church began observing December 25th. Coincidentally(?), the date chosen for the birth of Christ was on the same date as the birth of Sol, the pagan sun-god from Mithraism. The winter solstice festival of Rome, the Saturnalia, influenced many Christmas customs, including the giving of gifts. Note that the wise men presented gifts to Jesus, not to themselves, and they came not when He was lying in a manger, but when He was in a house, Matthew 2:9-11.
The Christmas tree has its roots in pagan tree worship. An old Babylonian fable told of an evergreen tree which sprang out of a dead tree stump. The old stump symbolized the dead Nimrod, and the new evergreen tree symbolized that Nimrod had come back to life again in Tammuz. In Rome, the sacred fir was decorated with red berries during the Saturnalia. In at least ten Biblical references, including I Kings 14:23, the green tree is associated with idolatry and false worship. Jeremiah 10:3-4 seems to be referring to a type of Christmas tree used in pagan worship. Although probably well-intentioned, many who observe Christmas customs today ignore the clear facts that most of these customs have pagan origins, and we are told not to follow the ways of the heathen, Deuteronomy 12:29-32.
Pagan Festivals, or God’s Holy Days?
The pagan origin of Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and a host of other Catholic holidays is so well-known that we should need little review. Any encyclopedia, or newspaper during these seasons, usually gives well-documented facts. These holidays were borrowed directly from paganism, with a little brushing off to make them appear “Christian.”
And so it is that God’s Holy Days are often neglected, while worldly holidays of pagan origin appear to be more appealing to carnal humanity. And today in the Church of God, there is a curious longing to return to what we came out of. The mixture of paganism and some Bible Truth is a deadly poison. This is the cup which the Babylonish system has made all the world to drink. It is not limited to the Roman Catholic Church of Rome, but she certainly plays a major role in today’s religious deception.
A Poisonous Mixture
The Romish system is based upon a mixture. That was the same as the apostasy into which the Israelites repeatedly fell. Usually Israel did not reject outright the worship of the true God, but mixed heathen rites with it. When they worshipped the golden calf, the Israelites claimed it was a “feast to the Lord,” Exodus 32:5. Not content with the tabernacle of God, they added the tabernacle of Moloch and Chiun, with pagan images, Amos 5:26; Acts 7:42-43. At another period, Israel performed secret rites, built high places and groves, used divination, caused their children to pass through the fire, and worshipped the sun, moon, and stars, II Kings 17:9-17. As a result, God allowed them to be expelled from their land. Mixture was apparent during the time of both judges and kings. At the time of Ezekiel, an idol was placed right at the entrance of the Jerusalem temple. Some even sacrificed their children, and came that very day to the sanctuary, Ezekiel 23:38-39. Jeremiah’s message was aimed at people who claimed to “worship the Lord,” Jeremiah 7:2, but had mixed in pagan rites. “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Ye . . . burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods . . . make cakes to the queen of heaven . . . and come and stand before me in this house,” Jeremiah 7:8-18.
The Eternal does not accept religious mixtures. If Baal be god, then serve him, but if Yahweh is God, then serve Him, I Kings 18:21. God was not pleased with a religious mixture then, nor is He now. As Samuel preached, “If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth [pagan mother goddess worship] from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only: and He will deliver you,” I Samuel 7:3.
Today, many believe that the Roman System has changed. With Vatican II, non-Catholic, professing Christians are not considered heretics, but “separated brethren.” Don’t kid yourselves. Satan appears as an angel of light, II Corinthians 11:14. Jesus warned about “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Matthew 7:15. The same Babylon mystery system has always oppressed free men who seek to serve God in sincerity and Truth. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge that is available to them (see Hosea 4:6). Come out of her, My people, Revelation, 18:4. Let us earnestly contend for the true faith once delivered to the saints, Jude 3.
Ralph Woodrow concludes his excellent book, Mystery Babylon Religion, with this stirring summary:
“We believe the true Christian goal is not religion based on mixture, but a return to the original, simple, powerful, and spiritual faith that was once delivered to the saints. No longer entangling ourselves in a maze of rituals or powerless traditions, we can find the ‘simplicity that is in Christ’, rejoicing in the ‘liberty wherewith Christ has made us free’ from ‘bondage’.” (II Corinthians 11:3; Galatians 5:1).
“Salvation is not dependent on a human priest, Mary, the saints, or the pope. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6). ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Let us look to JESUS who is the author and finisher of our faith, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, the Lamb of God, the Captain of our Salvation, the Bread from Heaven, the Water of Life, the Good Shepherd, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings and Lord of lords!” (Woodrow, p. 161).
May the Almighty guide us all to come totally out of Babylon!
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4)
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”(Revelation 22:20)
YES IT DOES MATTER!!!
To believe otherwise, would be to suggest that any number of different beliefs, ideas and worship is acceptable to God and rewarded by Him.
Or to put it another way God’s not fussed about what you think or do, He’ll give Life Eternal to anyone on any basis.
I’m sure the reality of such a suggestion is not believed by the average thinking person.
I mean could such a suggestion really be true? Surely God has a line so to speak somewhere on what is Right vs Wrong when it comes to a true belief in GOD and upon which the ONE TRUE GOD will reward those who believe in Him as promised?
The Apostle Paul writes:
“Now faith is the substance (AV marg. ground or confidence) of things hoped for, the evidence (RV proving) of things not seen…” Hebrews 11:6
“…And without faith [belief] it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.“
We learn from this that having Faith or more particularly ‘The Faith’, as it is referred to by the Apostles, is critical in our “seeking” and our acceptance and “reward” with God. Immediately we note that God did not say “any faith”, but He said “The Faith”.
This Faith or Belief is the Truth that was preached by the Apostles, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
Some examples of New Testament usage of the term “the faith” – occurs 42 times
1 Corinthians 16:13
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
2 Corinthians 13:5
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.”
“…that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
“Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught…”
1 Timothy 4:1
“Now the spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith…”
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Since it is God’s prerogative alone to set the terms on which He is worshipped we need to examine His word to find the answer.
And God says that our “FAITH”(belief) is very important!
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Why is Faith so Important?
Because prior to Paul preaching the Gospel message to them they were;
- “…without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12)
So important was this new knowledge called “truth” or “the faith” that they were told by Paul to believe no other;
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8)
So we learn from this that IT DOES MATTER WHAT WE BELIEVE. That God has made this very clear through is word, and as we will now find out, very clear through examples that God has given to us in His relationship with man.
Let us now have a look at the HISTORICAL importance of belief and doing what is Right vs Wrong before God and as a result how God accepts or rejects us based on what we do or belief. We’ll look at a couple of actual examples to learn this.
Cain and Abel – Genesis 4
Cain and Abel
“And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, should thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him…Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him” (Genesis 4:3-8)
|Cain and Abel – When they come of Age make an offering to God||Abel makes the right offering for sin to God and is Accepted by God||Cain makes a wrong offering and is rejected by God and takes his anger out on Abel|
Now let’s examine what happened here.
It’s important to note first and foremostly that Cain and Abel were both raised by the same parents, Adam and Eve, they were both taught what was right (truth) and wrong by the same parents.
And yet they both did different things when they were called on (come of age) to worship God by themselves.
|Cain was “a tiller” ie a tiller of the ground and from so doing he brought forth fruit from it.||Abel was “a shepherd” he looked after a flock of sheep|
|When asked to bring an offering to God, Cain brought of the “fruit of the ground”||When asked to bring an offering to God, Abel brought a “firstling of his flock”|
|In Genesis 3:21 God had already taught Adam and Eve that a slain lamb was a suitable offering for sin.|
In Hebrews 9:22 the Apostle Paul shows us that “…without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin” And later in Revelation we learn that the Lamb slain by God in the Garden of Eden pointed forward to the work of our Lord Jesus Christ Revelation 13:8 “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
|For Cain’s offering “the LORD had not respect”||For Abel’s offering “the LORD had respect”|
|As a result Cain became angry (“was wrath”)|
|Yet in Genesis 4:6-7 we see that God tried to lead Cain carefully to see his wrong doing|
6And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? (ie. If you don’t sin all is okay and you will be accepted by God) and if thou doest not well (ie. If you sin as we all do), sin lieth at the door (ie. The acceptable sin offering lies at the door so to speak, ie. The firstling of lambs is right outside and easy for you to lay old of). And unto theeshall be his desire (ie. It will let you take it), and thou shalt rule over him. (ie. You can offer this lamb as a sin offering)
|Cain did not worship God correctly as they had been taught, and even though God showed him his mistake, Cain was consumed with pride and anger at being rejected and carried on doing things his own way, eventually taking his anger out on Abel.||Abel had worshipped God the way God had required and taught them, he did it God’s way.|
|The result was that Cain was REJECTED by God||The result was that Abel was ACCEPTED by God|
Cain blinded by pride!!
From the very beginning God put a difference between True and False worship. ie. true and false belief.
We all have the same opportunity to read, study and come to understand the Bible, but not all will do this in the correct or accepted way.
For this reason Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
False teaching and intellectual pride, that we are right, along with human emotions attached to both, will and does blind millions of sincere believers to the truth of God’s word and to acceptable worship – as it did Cain.
This will result in their rejection by God as it did with Cain.
The Nation of Israel is another great example of what is acceptable to God.
The nation of Israel were a special people called out of the nations through Abraham and given a great Hope of an everlasting life and possession of the land of Israel. But for this to happen they were clearly told that they must obey God’s voice and follow His commandments (truth).
“And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgements: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do” (Exodus 24:3)
“…if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments…and all these blessings shall come on thee…” (Deut 28:1-2)
“But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments…that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (Deut 28:15)
The Nation of Israel was punished for failing to follow the word of God
“…ye children of Israel…the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land” (Hos 4:1)
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…seeing thou hast forgotten the Law of thy God…” (Hos 4:6)
“Therefore my people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge…” (Isaiah 5:13)
From this we learn that the Nation of Israel were punished for their lack of “truth” and “knowledge” by which they could remain in God’s favour and acceptance.
Another individual example is Nadab and Abihu – Leviticus 10:1-3
Nadab and Abihu during a time of worship they took it upon themselves to do something the LORD had not instructed them to do
“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died…Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me…” (Leviticus 10:1-3)
From this we learn that, it is not the prerogative of any to decide for themselves how they will serve or worship God.
God requires all to serve and worship in exactly the manner as He has revealed in His Word.
The New Testament reveals the same.
In John 17:1-3 we read these words:
“1These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
In this passage Jesus lays out the criteria for “life eternal” to be given to his true followers.
In John 17:3 the word “know” is a key word! In the Greek it is the word ‘ginosko’ and this signifies ‘to perceive, to fully understand what something is all about, to understand something until it has a practical out working in one’s life’.
So we need to have the Knowledge revealed in God’s word that ultimately manifests itself in one’s conduct.
So how do we reconcile todays One Bible yet many churches and teachings?
The Bible predicted it would be so, and gives us the reason why.
We saw in the example of Cain, that it was his own pride that caused him to be blinded to the true and acceptable way to worship God.
God says that Man’s heart is “desperately wicked”.
We suggest to you that this is still the cause behind the diversity of beliefs that remains today.
The Pharisees and the Scribes rejected and crucified Christ because in their pride they could not believe that “any good thing could come out of Nazareth.”
“heap to themselves teachers” men who in their own pride were eager to put forth some new doctrine they could name their own.
“itching ears” to hear some new thing like the people of Athens.
The “heap” of “teachers” and “itching ears” resulted in “a working of error or a delusion” amongst the believers “that they should believe a lie”.
Several of the Apostles when writing to the first century believers warned them to guard against false teaching.
There was ample evidence of it in their day. A good number of false beliefs were brought into the community of the believers by those who were converts from Greek and Roman paganism, under which all manner of superstitious beliefs had been accumulated from ancient times.
Later the introduction of the Clergy into Christendom under Roman Catholicism gave a select few the opportunity to influence, control and even dictate the beliefs of the laity/congregation.
Not surprisingly this encouraged and permitted all manner of devious motives to be exercised by members of the clergy. [most motives were political as the church and state had become one]
This we believe is the principle reason why Christendom today is Astray from the Bible.
From these examples we learn:
- That if we want to be accepted by God, then we must worship Him in the way He has prescribed.
- That even if sincere in our worship we must ensure that we follow God’s word or instructions very carefully.
- That we must have a true knowledge of God’s word if we are to be blessed by Him according to all His promises.
- That to do otherwise will lead us to stray from God’s word and lose our hope of salvation.
Let us compare what the Churches teach verses what the Bible, the word of God teaches.
CONSIDER THESE FACTS:
|The Churches Teach||The Bible Teaches|
|There is a mysterious Trinity, “One God yet Three”|
|“To us there is but one God the Father…and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor 8:6)|
|Purgatory is a place of temporary punishment for departed souls|
|“For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything…their love, hatred, envy is perished” (Ecc. 9;5-6)|
|The soul is immortal and cannot be destroyed||“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ez 18:4) “All have sinned” (Rom 6:4)|
|The Churches Teach||The Bible Teaches|
|Sprinkling of infants constitutes baptism|
Heaven is a place of reward and hell is a place of torment
|“If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest be baptised” (Acts 8:37)|
“No man hath ascended into heaven: (Jn 3:13) “In death there is no remembrance of Thee” and “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Psa 6:5, Matt 5:5)
|Satan is a supernatural evil being causing men to sin|
|“Whatsoever thing from without entereth into a man cannot defile him…from within out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts etc…” (Mk 7:18-22)|
God is THREE verses God is ONE?
Two such conflicting beliefs can’t both be right, let alone acceptable to God.
Mary worship is the result of this?
The Bible clearly warns us about the development of “false teaching”.
A warning to US from the Bible!
- “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jere 10:23)
- “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (things that aren’t true) (2Tim 4:3-4)
- “For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work…” (2Thess 2:7)
- “…with lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that are perishing because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2Thess 2:10)
The Bible predicted a Great “falling away” from the truth as taught by the Apostles.
Paul predicted that believers would be led away from the faith by men who would teach lies…
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits (false teachers) and doctrines of devils (teaching of liars); Speaking lies in hypocrisy…” (1Tim 4:1-2)
That a religious system whilst initially holding the truth would “fall away” and follow the lies of men who used followers for personal gain
“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed…who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God…” (2Thess 2:3)
That only when Christ returns will this system of “lawlessness” be fully exposed and destroyed.
“…the Lord Jesus shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2Thess 2:8)
If we look back at the history of religion we can see the origins and progress of false teaching over time.
GROWTH OF FALSE TEACHING and the year in which it came to prominence…
- Immortality of the soul………………………………………………………………………..124 AD
- Pre-human existence of Christ………………………………………………………………124 AD
- Sprinkling instead of immersion……………………………………………………………..150 AD
- Infant baptism…………………………………………………………………………………180 AD
- Constantine triumphs the Christian cause and makes apostate Christianity the state religion and forms what has become known as The Roman Catholic Church …………………………………………………………………………………………………312 AD
- Jesus a person within the Godhead..…………………………………………………..…..325 AD
- “Holy Ghost” a person within the Godhead…………………………………………………381 AD
- Doctrine of purgatory………………………………………………………………………….431 AD
- Exaltation of Mary “the Mother of God”………………………………………………………431 AD
Much of the development of false teaching can be blamed on the rise to power of Constantine and his self proclaimed championing of the Christian cause.
Yet people like Hendrik Van Loon, in summarising the life of Constantine wrote:
(Constantine revered as a saint by the Catholic Church.)
“This wild Serbian who had wielded a spear on every battlefield of Europe, from York in England to Byzantium on the shores of the Bosphorus, was among other things the murderer of his wife, the murderer of his brother-in-law, the murderer of his nephew [a boy of 7], and the executioner of several other relatives of minor degree and importance.”
“That he lived and died a barbarian who had outwardly accepted Christianity, yet until the end of his days tried to read the riddle of the future from the steaming entrails of sacrificial sheep, was most considerately overlooked in view of the famous Edict of Tolerance by which the Emperor guaranteed unto his beloved Christian subjects the right to freely profess their private opinions and to assemble in their meeting-place without fear of molestation.”
“For the leaders of the Church in the first half of the fourth century were practical politicians, and when they had finally forced the Emperor to sign this ever-memorable decree, they elevated Christianity from the rank of a minor sect to the dignity of the official Church of the State. But they knew how and in what manner this had been accomplished and the successors of Constantine knew it, and although they tried to cover it up by a display of oratorical fireworks the arrangement never quite lost its original character…. There have been other bargains during the history of the last twenty centuries; but few have been so brazen as the compromise by which Christianity came to power” [from The Liberation Of Mankind p.80]
In order to retain and widen their position of power these same practical politicians who became the clergy, commenced to merge Christianity with paganism which resulted in this apostate religion that continues unto the present day.
In the year 1521 A.D. The Reformation commenced when the Protestants rebelled against the Roman Catholic Church, and its doctrines.
With the advent of printing and the first copies of the Bible freely available, the Protestants as a result of their reading and study of the Bible identified the Catholic Church as the great apostate system spoken of by Paul the Apostle.
It was a system evident in Paul’s day and would continue until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This along with other passages in the Bible clearly identifies The Roman Catholic Church to whose beliefs nearly all Protestant churches have since returned under what has been known as the Ecumenical movement ie. a movement that proposes ‘let us come together as friends despite our differences in what we believe’.
During the early days of the Period of Reformation a group of French Cardinals give this advice to the Pope in AD 1550
- “Of all the advice reserved for your Holiness, we have kept the most essential until the last moment. Concerning the reading of the Bible, we must keep our eyes wide open and intervene with all our power. It is necessary to authorise as little as possible the reading of the Gospels, particularly in modern languages and in countries under our jurisdiction. That which is generally read during Mass must suffice, and nobody must be authorised to read any other.
- Your interests will prosper so long as the people are contented with the little which is offered them, but as soon as the public asks for more, your interests are in danger. The Bible is the book which, more than any other, can stir up against us revolt and storms which might well nigh destroy us. Certainly, if somebody studies the Bible seriously, and compares it with what is happening in our churches, he will soon find the contradictions, and will see that our doctrines are far astray from the truth, and are even more often completely opposed to the Bible.
- And if the people come to recognise all these things, they will be constantly defying us, until everything is brought to light: there upon we shall become the object of ridicule and hate. It is vital to keep the Bible away from the attention of the people, but with much caution so as to avoid uproar.’
As the Catholic Church tried to stem the tide of protesting against it’s beliefs by the reformers, numerous debates and trials were conducted by the church.
Just one such example of the Debates and Trials during the Reformation AD 1500 – 1800 is listed below…
- Huldrich Zwingli: a Swiss evangelical who in 1523 advocated splitting with Rome and the Catholic church on the grounds that the church was astray from the Word of God. He argued that “the word of God would be his sole arbiter” In reality Zwingli was mostly interested in exalting himself as he staunchly held to Catholic teaching, notable infant baptism.
- Dr. Balthasar Hubmaier: an evangelical preacher, who had formerly been a university vice-rector having graduated as Master, plunged into assiduous study of the Scriptures which led to revolutionary thinking. Based on his studies, Hubmaier insisted that no trace could be found of infant christening in the Scriptures.
An excerpt from their debate follows:
- Zwingli: You reject infant baptism that you may set up rebaptism.
- Hubmaier: You have not produced a single passage to prove infant baptism is baptism. You should remember what you once said, that truth is clearly revealed in the word of God. If now infant baptism is a truth, show us the Scripture in which it is found.
- Zwingli: If everone adopts such views as he pleases, and does not ask the church concerning them, error will increase.
- Hubmaier: We should consult the Scriptures, not the church. The church is built upon the word, not the word upon the church.
- Zwingli: The thief on the cross believed, and on the same day was with Christ in paradise; yet he was not baptised with outward baptism.
- Hubmaier: A man who has the excuse of the thief on the cross will have the favour of God. But when this excuse is lacking the word of Christ holds true that “he that believes and is baptised shall be saved”.
- Zwingli: Matthew 3 says that “all Judaea” went out to John and were baptised. Here one may say that if the whole multitude went out, we should expect that there were children who went out also.
- Hubmaier: Might not one also say that we should expect that Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod went out and were baptised? It matters not what we think or expect. We must be governed by the Scriptures. I appeal to the Scriptures. Let them decide.
The reformers consistently made their stand on the basis of what the Bible taught and not on what the church taught. Eventually many new protestant churches were formed as a result listing their beliefs based on the Bible.
Sadly however over the passage of time, many of these new churches have lost their way, many now include amongst their beliefs teachings that their early founding fathers would not have believed.
So today we end up in a situation where there is One Bible yet Many Churches.
So what does this mean for the FUTURE – What is to become of this situation?
God tolerates this now so that the True Believers can prepare themselves for Christ’s coming. But a day of judgement for all people is coming when those who perpetuate this apostasy will be destroyed.
Acts 17:31 Paul in addressing the false beliefs of the people of Athens said that God had;
“appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” ie. the Lord Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 11:1-5)
Concerning his return Christ said;
“…Nevertheless when the son of man cometh, shall he find the faith on the earth?”
Jeremiah 16:19-20 At that time…
“…the Gentiles shall come unto three from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?”
Clearly it does matter what we believe, as this will be the end of all those who don’t believe the Truth of God’s Word, but rather have “turned unto fables” and have chosen to believe “lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.”
And so what must we OURSELVES DO ABOUT THIS – What must we do now to be saved?
This is what the Bible tells US! “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil 2:12]
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth.” [2 Tim 2::15]
We have to be “obedient as children, not fashioning ourselves according to our former lusts in the time of our ignorance: but as he which called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of living: because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” [1Pet 1:14-16]
The first act of obedience once we have come to a knowledge of the Truth of God’s Word and His purpose with mankind, is to be baptised.
“He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” [Mark 16:16]
If we do this and continue to walk faithfully with our God until the return of Christ, God will reward us with eternal life in His Kingdom.
A Kingdom of everlasting joy, peace and righteousness.
A Kingdom that will be established on this earth under the righteous reign of the Lord Jesus Christ with whom we will reign as kings and priests.
During this Kingdom all people will be made to learn the Truth of God’s Word and to walk in His Ways.
“1But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. 2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.”
Such a great HOPE demands that we each search out the scriptures to find the truth and having so done…
…in God’s Grace we shall all be there to enjoy this great day.
How to identify wrong teaching
Like those who have gone before us, we must make the WORD of GOD our basis of belief and not what the churches teach.
- “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Tim 2:15)
- “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith” (2Cor 13:5)
- “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” ( Phil 2:12)
An Important Issue in our Day!
- In this age of democracy and “political correctness” with all its pressures on tolerance and accommodation with others, we face the risk of becoming complacent in our understanding and appreciation of the dangers of the influence of the WRONG TEACHING of the Churches.
- Our eternal well being is at stake…
- “And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
“Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book…Behold I (the Lord Jesus) come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev 22:7, 12)
Bible Questions and Answers Book
DOWNLOAD YOUR OWN COPY OF THIS BOOK BY CLICKING HERE
ABOUT THIS BOOKLET
The only way to become a true Christian is to believe and be baptized into Christ. (See Galatians 3:27). The basis for baptism is individual repentance, and faith in God and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
But before we can be baptized we must also understand the teaching of the Bible and believe it. (See Acts 8:12). This booklet is to help you do this.
Each section contains one or more numbered (1, 2, 3) questions. And each question has lettered (a, b, c) model answers. The answers are NOT multiple choice or alternative – ALL the answers given are possible, and the more answers the student can give the better.
How to Use This Booklet
Do not try to rush your study of the Bible. Many people need to study the Bible for at least a year or two before they understand it well enough to make a commitment which will affect the rest of their life. If you have already been studying the Bible for a long time, you may be able to work through this booklet within a few months.
Make the effort
Work hard at your Bible study. It is worth making a big effort, because eternal life is a big prize. Be prepared to spend at least half an hour a day — every day — reading the Bible and thinking about what you have read.
Take one question at a time
Read the question and the answer. Then turn up the Bible passages quoted in the answer. If you are sure that you understand these, and that you agree with the answer, then you can turn to the next question.
Ask if you do not understand
Perhaps you will not understand some of the Bible passages, or perhaps you will not agree with some of the answers given. If so, please ask your Christadelphian Bible teacher about them. He or she is always ready to help you.
Study with a friend
If possible, try to study the Bible in company with other people. You will be able to help each other, and will make faster progress that way.
Read Your Bible daily
As well as working through this booklet, you should read one or more chapters of the Bible each day. The best way to do this is by following a daily program of readings such as given in other booklets; The Bible Companion – or Calendar (all the Bible in 1 year, with the New Testament read twice), or in simplified version The Bible Reading Planner. DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY HERE
Bible Teaching FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why are the Jews “God’s People” – Why not any other Nation?
Creation and Evolution – Which is right, or are they compatible?
Is God a Trinity?
Does 1 John 5:7 support the Trinity?
Why so many Christian Churches?
Is there life elsewhere?
Can we communicate with the dead?
Are there ghosts?
Can our ancestors influence our lives?
Reincarnation – Does it happen?
Can we foretell the future?
Does the Bible contain prophecies of the future?
What is “Inspiration”?
Why Are There So Many Modern Versions of the Bible?
Can we work miracles now?
What is “The Holy Spirit”?
Bible Origins, texts and translations – which is right?
What is “Transubstantiation?”
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED
The question is frequently asked, “Why did God choose the Jews to be His special people?” We cannot do better than repeat the reason that God gave to Israel through Moses:
“Thou art an holy people unto the Lord Thy God; the Lord Thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord Thy God, He is God, the faithful God which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations; and repayeth them that hate Him to their face, to destroy them; He will not be slack to Him that hateth him, He will repay him to his face. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments and the statutes, and the judgements which I command thee this day to do them.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–11)
God’s love for Israel originated with a promise He had made to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that He would make their descendants into a great nation. It was to be God’s reward to these men of faith who trusted Him. But it would always be conditional upon Israel’s obedience, and from the Bible record we know that Israel was not obedient. As soon as they became a nation they showed that they were unreliable in their service to God. As soon as God left them for a few days without Moses, the leader He had chosen for them, they turned their backs on God and worshipped idols. Throughout their history they continually neglected Him, preferring the gods of the surrounding nations. God tolerated this for a long time, forgave them and restored them many times, but at the end, true to His word, He punished them by allowing powerful foreign enemies to invade their land and take them into captivity, and by a final destruction at the hand of the Romans in 70 CE, leaving only a remnant to be scattered among the nations.
So why the Jews? God needed a nation through whom His will and purpose might be put into operation, and made known to all nations. Had Israel been faithful and obedient God would have made them into a great nation then and there, three thousand years ago and the glory of God would have been displayed to the world through them, as in fact it was briefly, in king Solomon’s reign. But they were disobedient and God cast them off as He said He would. Even in their disobedience, they are a witness to God’s power and His faithfulness to man for all to see and learn from. God keeps His word. Israel’s misfortunes over the past two thousand years are a witness to God’s integrity. Today the Jews show no particular Godly qualities, nor have they ever done much to endear themselves to the nations around them. The Jews have remained ever since a lesson to us all, and they will continue to be so, because God, true to His promises, will ultimately restore a remnant of Israel to His favour when Christ returns. With that restoration of Israel, God will include blessings for all nations of the world.
Israel was chosen as an object lesson to the rest of the world, to demonstrate how God would favour people who trusted and obeyed Him and also would punish those that turned their backs on Him and trusted in their own ability. As God promised the forefathers of Israel, His purpose will still be carried out, using Israel as one of the instruments of His purpose, but not before there is a complete reconciliation between Israel and their God, and Jesus the Messiah will be the means of that reconciliation at his return.
A form of evolutionary theory existed among the Greeks, and maybe other ancient peoples, but when Christianity took over the civilised world in the 4th century CE. creation as recounted in the Bible was generally accepted as the authoritative account of how the world began. Then, in the 18th century, as scientific knowledge increased, discoveries were made in biology and geology which seemed at first sight to contradict the possibility that God brought all things on the earth into existence within six literal days, six thousand years ago, as the usual understanding of the Genesis account then required. Particularly, there were fossil and actual remains of animals and plants, some of which no longer exist, and which appeared to be much older than a literal understanding of the Biblical Creation would allow. Darwin and others who shared his thinking developed a theory of “Evolution” which totally denied creation, and substituted a belief that life on earth evolved gradually over many millions of years by a process of random mutation and natural selection. The theory has not, and probably cannot be, satisfactorily proved in any scientific sense but it is widely accepted by the majority of scientists and is taught in schools as fact.
In the 18th and 19th centuries creation and evolution were seen as mutually exclusive. Evolution was seen by many as eliminating the need for God the Creator. If life on earth began and developed according to evolutionary theories, then there was no place for a supreme authority to plan and supervise life on earth. This view of life that did not need God was welcomed by a world that was becoming increasingly self-confident and atheistic. But over the years, further research has largely failed to produce the anticipated evidence necessary to confirm the theory of evolution in the form then current; rather the opposite has happened. The classification and grouping and dating of fossils has displayed a very uneven development, and not the gradual progression from one improved life form to another which was expected. There are also bursts of activity recorded by the fossils, interspersed with long periods of inactivity, and huge gaps in the supposed order of development. The fossil record does not support the elementary theory of evolution.
Reaction has set in, and alternative ways of looking at the book of Genesis, some reasonable, some less so, have done much to close the gap, leaving God supreme as the originator and curator of life on earth, while at the same time accounting for some of the genuinely unquestionable evidence of early life forms that has been unearthed by the biologists and geologists.
A more realistic understanding of Scripture might allow for an agreement with science. If there is a God, then the Bible and science must be compatible even if we cannot see it. One problem centres on the six “days” of Creation described in Genesis. If they are not literal periods of 24 hours, then it is possible they represent much longer periods of time in which life could have been established in a succession of creations, which, in turn, left their fossil remains in successive layers of rock. An alternative view is that each “day” as recorded in Genesis was an announcement of that phase of the work of God that was to follow. A sensible view, which is not a compromise but a consolidation of ideas, permits us to see in the Genesis record a prolonged period of Creation, always in God’s hands, compatible with the fossil record.
To understand evolution is not our problem. God gave us His account of the beginning of things that describes events in a way that is readily understandable. Once we can accept that God’s account of things in the Bible, and the findings of the scientists may refer to the same events, we have a basis for reconciliation. We need to take hold from the Genesis account that God was and still is at the centre of things and is controlling events.
Belief that God is a Trinity consisting of a co-equal, co-eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit is regarded as essential for all true Christians by the majority of churches today. Those who do not share this belief are the exceptions, including ourselves, the Christadelphians, the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses and doubtless other lesser known groups and individuals. There have always been such groups of believers throughout the history of Christianity. We ought also to remember that many have left the Christian faith altogether because they cannot commit themselves to a dogma which is by the admission of the churches, a mystery.
Why are present-day Christian Churches so insistent on belief in the doctrine of the Trinity? We need to go back to the early years of the Church for an answer. It would seem that some of the fathers of the early Church felt that the way forward was to combine the teaching of Jesus with the philosophy of the ancient Greeks, and thus achieve an understanding of the universe to which everyone could agree.
Aristotle and Plato, Greek philosophers before the time of Christ, speculated about the nature of God and developed a triune formula for the superhuman world consisting of a Supreme Being, a “Demiurge” or Creator, and a World Soul. As the fathers of the church came in contact with this philosophy, there was a temptation to find common understanding with the Greeks, so they gradually merged the speculations of the Greeks with the teaching of Jesus. As they saw it, Greek philosophy and Christianity already shared a belief in a Supreme Being, whom they called God; and they compared Jesus, “by whom all things were created”, with the Greek demiurge.
Making Jesus the creator of the material world derives from a misunderstanding of John 1:3 and similar passages which appear to refer to Jesus as the Creator. Jesus is central to the creation of God’s ultimate world of the future: without Jesus there could be no future. The creation of the material world is incidental to God’s ultimate purpose, and He is the Creator of all things. If Jesus were the creator of the material world then he would have had to have existed before the Creation, so the Bible account of his birth in the Gospels would have to be “spiritualised” or understood in some way that did not conflict with the idea that Jesus had always existed.
The Holy Spirit was a late arrival in the Trinity, and for many years there was sharp disagreement as to whether the Holy Spirit was God’s executive power, or whether it was controlled by Jesus. Eventually, with their eye on the Greek “world soul” the early Church fathers of the Alexandrian School came to see the Holy Spirit as the life force that kept all things alive. They gave the Holy Spirit a personality and promoted him to a co-equal, co-eternal “person” who could join the Father and the Son to make a Trinity. A combination of the “world soul” idea and the idea that Jesus must have existed before the Creation, also gave rise to “immortal souls” – the concept that all living creatures have an inner invisible part called a soul, which will continue to exist after death, and may have always existed. But that is another story.
A Christian theological college was established at Alexandria in Egypt at the end of the 3rd century to discuss and promulgate such ideas. It was presided over by Clement, a very learned Christian philosopher. The Lion Handbook of the Bible records: “The crucial achievement of Clement and Origen was to put over the Gospel in terms by which it could be understood by people familiar with the highest forms of Greek culture. They established once for all the respectability of the new faith.” The Encyclopaedia Britannica states: “He (Clement) was the first to bring all the culture of the Greeks and the speculation of Christian heretics to bear on the exposition of Christian truth.” The Church was “thinking aloud” at this stage, with many circulating opinions and many who disagreed with the concept of a trinity.
In the year 325 CE. The Roman Emperor Constantine called a Council in which the speculations concerning the trinity could be discussed. The majority being in favour of the now more popular trinitarian views, a trinitarian formula was drawn up which also anathematised or, in their terms, condemned to “everlasting punishment”, all who could not accept it. From that day onwards the Trinity has been the accepted teaching of the mainstream Church, regardless of its pagan origins and complete lack of Biblical support. From that time onwards those who disagreed with the doctrine of the Trinity were regarded as heretics and were liable to be put to death.
There have always been those who preferred to follow Bible truth. John Milton, the English poet (1608–1674) is a good example. He wrote: “For my part I adhere to the Holy Scriptures alone, I follow no other heresy or sect. If, therefore, the Father be the God of Christ, and the same be our God, and if there be none other God but One, then there can be no God beside the Father.” The doctrine of the Trinity links the apostate Church with human philosophy and temporal authority rather than the Bible.
Proposed arguments from Scripture are without much strength, such as the reference to Genesis 1: 26, where God says “Let us make man in our image”. Those who hold the doctrine of The Trinity presume that God is addressing the other two persons of the Trinity, but this is an assumption. If there is no Trinity, then the alternative is that God was speaking to the angels who were assisting Him in the work of Creation. Another argument sometimes offered is to refer to the fact that both Jesus (2 Tim. 1:10) and God (1 Timothy 1:1) are described as “Saviour”, therefore Jesus must be God. It overlooks the fact that human saviours are also referred to in the Bible. God sent “saviours” who were human warrior leaders to deliver Israel against their enemies (Nehemiah 9:27).
Cardinal Newman a leading Roman Catholic theologian of the 19th century admitted that the Trinity is the invention of the Church and cannot be learned from Scripture. He wrote:
“It may startle those who are but acquainted with the popular writing of this day, yet, I believe, the most accurate consideration of the subject will lead us to acquiesce in the statement as a general truth, that the doctrines in question (viz., the Trinity and the Incarnation) have never been learned merely from Scripture. Surely the sacred volume was never intended, and is not adapted to teach us our creed; however certain it is that we can prove our creed from it, when it has once been taught us… From the very first, the rule has been, as a matter of fact, for the Church to teach the truth, and then appeal to Scripture in vindication of its own teaching.”
– Arians of the Fourth Century, pp. 55–56.
This quotation makes it clear that to the Roman Catholics it is not important whether or not any doctrine originates from or is supported by Scripture. For them it is sufficient that it is taught by the Church. For the purposes of our investigation we require precisely the opposite terms of reference – If it is not to be found in the Bible it is of human origin and can therefore be discounted.
The only Scripture which appears to support the doctrine of the Trinity is 1 John 5:7. This is found in the English King James Version of 1611 CE, but has been omitted from nearly every more recent version on the grounds that it does not appear in any early manuscripts and is therefore an insertion to the text at a later date purely to establish or justify the doctrine of the Trinity. The arguments against the inclusion of this passage are as follows:
The earliest citation appealed to is Cyprian:
“The Lord says, ‘I and the Father are one;’ and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, ‘And these three are one.’” Cyprian, ‘Treatise 1 – On the Unity of the Church’, section 6, c. 258 AD.
There is no indication whether or not Cyprian knew the text as we have it in the KJV, the quote here is simply too small to judge. Dealing with this and all other manuscript and patristic quotations, Bruce Metzger, United Bible Societies 1994, writes:
“A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition, the most authoritative textual commentary on the most authoritative Greek New Testament text available, says: ‘That these words are spurious and have no right to stand in the New Testament is certain’ and goes on to point out that the passage is absent from every known Greek manuscript except eight, and there are well over two thousand. Seven of these date from the 16th century, and the eighth is an alternative reading added to a 10th century manuscript.”
The passage is quoted by none of the Greek Fathers, who, had they known it, would most certainly have employed it in the Trinitarian controversies of their day. Its first appearance in Greek is in a Greek version of the (Latin), Acts of the Lateran Council in 1215.
The passage is absent from the manuscripts of all ancient versions Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic, except the Latin; and it is not found (a) in the Old Latin in its earliest form, or in the Vulgate (b) as issued by Jerome or as revised by Alcuin in the 9th century. Martin Luther did not include it in his first edition of the German Bible. The earliest instance of the passage being quoted as a part of the actual text of the Epistle, is in a 4th century Latin treatise entitled Liber Apologeticus (chapter 4), attributed either to the Spanish heretic Priscillian (died about 385), or to his follower Bishop Instantius. It appears to have originated as a marginal note which in later copies found its way into the text. In the 5th century this marginal note was quoted by Latin Fathers in North Africa and Italy as part of the text of the Epistle, and from the 6th century onwards it is found more and more frequently in manuscripts of the Old Latin and of the Vulgate. The wording of the passage differs.
If the passage were original, no good reason could be found to account for its omission, either accidentally or intentionally, by copyists of hundreds of Greek manuscripts, and by translators of ancient versions.
The passage makes an awkward break in the sense. Isaac Newton, a serious 17th Century Bible scholar commented: “Let them make good sense of it who are able, for my part I can make none.”
It will be asked, “How does this verse come to be included in the King James Bible of 1611?” The translators of the New Testament of the KJV used the compilation of Greek manuscripts translated by Erasmus in 1515 CE, and known as the “Textus Receptus” which contains the verse. A scholar asked Erasmus why he had originally left out this verse. Erasmus replied that he would have inserted it if he could have found a single Greek manuscript that had it. Roman Catholic scholars in Dublin then produced the “Codex Montfortianus” which contained the verse, and on the strength of this document alone Erasmus felt obliged to insert the verse in his third and later editions of the Textus Receptus. The Codex Montfortianus is a 16th century translation into Greek from the Vulgate.
On January 13th 1897 the Inquisition in Rome stated that “one could not safely deny or call into doubt the authenticity of the verse.” But Raymond E. Brown, an American scholar writing in 1982 notes that “all recent Catholic scholarly discussion has recognised that the verse is neither genuine nor authentic.”
The fact that the Christian world is divided into so many churches and differing religious groups, all different from one another, might seem to put the value and integrity of Christianity into doubt. They cannot all be right. In fact, logically, because they differ, only one or perhaps even no church claiming to represent Christ today can be the true church. There are, of course, those who say that minor differences in belief and practice between churches do not matter and there are many roads to the kingdom, and that we shall all get there in the end, but this is not how the Bible teaches us to look at things.
The church lost its way in the 4th Century CE when it merged with the pagan Roman Empire. With the exception of a few groups who held to original Christian beliefs and were persecuted to extinction, the church was ruled by authority and not by conviction. In those times understanding and belief in the Gospel played little part in being a “Christian.” It is true that then and for the next thousand years there was only “one church” and few people in those days thought that it could be otherwise. It did not seem to worry them that the church consisted of nations constantly at war with each other, and killing one another to gain material power and prosperity, but in theory at least, they all belonged to the same church and worshipped the same God.
This artificial unity and solidarity of the church broke down when access to the Bible enabled people to see that the church was full of error and superstition and corruption, and that the dogmas of the Church were not found in the Bible. Separating between truth and error was not an easy task. For most churches today, belief is a mixture of church tradition and Bible truth. The differences between the major churches today are the result of trying unsuccessfully to combine the errors and superstitions of the old pagan/Christian church with the truth of the Bible.
It has been estimated that across the world there may be as many as fifteen thousand separate Christian “churches.” They all have differing beliefs and practices which keep them apart. Many of these churches are the product of a charismatic leader who makes extravagant claims to spiritual authority, and at the same time makes a fortune out of those who are foolish enough to believe him and support him financially. Fortunately we do not have to examine all of them to understand who is right and who is wrong. It is much simpler to go straight to the Bible and establish our faith on what we find written there, and discard the remainder however powerful, wealthy, well supported and influential they may be. These other churches may be sincere in what they believe, but sincerity is not enough. If we find that what they teach is not supported by the Bible then we have a responsibility not to support them or co-operate with them in any way.
Two simple tests would rule out most of the churches today as not being truly “Christian”. The first is that Christ taught his disciples not to resist evil, not to fight or take up arms in defence of their beliefs, their country, their property, or life itself. Jesus himself laid down his life for all mankind without resisting those who would take it away from him. How many Christian churches today would follow his example in this requirement? With few exceptions, “Christian” churches today encourage and support the military activities of the countries which govern them. How can they be “Christian”? The second test which would eliminate most churches today is to ask whether they are waiting for the return of Jesus Christ to set up God’s kingdom on this earth, as is clearly taught in the Bible by Jesus himself. How many churches today hold out this hope to their members? These two tests eliminate most churches claiming to be “Christian.”
We need to approach this question from the other end. There is one God, who calls to us in these days through the message He has given us in the Bible. Anyone who understands that message and follows that teaching is a Christian. We cannot possibly know now all who believe as we do, and who throughout the years have come to similar conclusions to ourselves, and lived for Christ’s return. But we may group together where we recognise common belief, call ourselves “churches” and give ourselves names like “Christadelphian”; God knows who are His, and one day the faithful of all ages will be brought back to life to become His true Church revealed in the earth. In the meantime we stand by Bible teaching and accept no other authority. Our conviction that we truly understand the Gospel as it is given to us in the Bible imposes upon us a duty that we should be most willing to accept, that we search out and join with others who share these beliefs, and do our utmost to persuade those who do not.
There is no evidence that there is life as we understand it anywhere else in the universe. The possibility cannot be ruled out, but if it exists it does not affect our life on earth in any way. If God, our Creator, and the Creator of the whole universe wishes to involve us in any activities outside the limits of the Earth, then surely He would have told us so, and not left us to speculate about possible relationships with life elsewhere.
During the past century and maybe earlier, the idea has developed that life exists on other planets and perhaps elsewhere. Today there is a multi-million dollar industry engaged in space exploration and an even larger secondary industry producing masses of books, films and videos under the general heading of “Science Fiction”. Science Fiction has promoted what is now seen by many to be “Science Fact”. The stories told are usually about intelligent and scientifically advanced creatures living on another planet, who have built space ships to visit or invade Earth. The story usually includes a visit to earth by a space ship, and the abduction of humans for experimental purposes. They are sometimes returned, strangely modified by their experiences. Among the best known fictional characters is “ET” – the “Extra Terrestrial” little creature who gets left behind when his space ship leaves earth without him. There are the “X–Files” which deal with imaginary contacts between the American Government and visitors from outer space, and also the adventures of “Space Ship Enterprise”, set in the future, when a picked team of humans visits planets and stars in outer space, and have incredible adventures before returning home to Earth many years later. There are many variations on this theme which have filled the imaginations of writers and readers alike.
Apart from the addicts to profit-making fiction, there is a small core of firm believers who have no doubts that such strange things do happen and that creatures from outer space exist and do visit Earth. They can produce fuzzy photographs of space ships, and there are crop circles – the marks left in the ground where space ships are supposed to have landed and taken off. There are people who claim to have been abducted by spacemen and returned to earth. Most of the evidence produced for extra-terrestrial activity can be dismissed as practical joking which the perpetrators have admitted or which can be accounted for by natural objects and occurrences mistaken for the activities of space ships. The remainder, particularly the abductions, are the product of overheated imaginations. We have no need to take them seriously.
There has been an attempt to link religion with spacemen, and the serious claim has been made that Jesus Christ was himself a visiting spaceman. This would require us to abandon the Jesus presented to us in the New Testament – the Jesus who was “God’s only begotten Son,” the Jesus who was made in all things like his (earth-bound) brethren, the Jesus who conquered sin, and gave us the hope of eternal life on earth. There is no indication in the Bible that God has a purpose with any other planet involving us, or His Son Jesus Christ.
Men and women have always been reluctant to believe that we cease to exist after death. We have in the Bible the sure hope of resurrection from the dead at the return of Jesus Christ, faithfully repeated by every clergyman who conducts a funeral, but, apart from this assurance, the dead return to the ground and are totally unconscious and inactive.
In addition to, or in place of, that certain fact of resurrection from the dead, the philosophers of this world have introduced the idea that each of us has a “soul” which is the important part of our being, and which continues to exist elsewhere after death outside our bodies. Many people believe that departed souls are in heaven, where they can look down and observe our activities on earth. Some people believe that it is possible to make contact with these departed souls, and a whole network of so-called “Christian” churches has grown up which indulges in this fantasy. These fantasies are also held by “spiritualists” who have no religious basis for their beliefs at all but believe in an existence elsewhere after death. There are many methods used to attempt contact with the dead but the most usual is to employ someone with supposed special powers, known as a “medium”, who will act as a kind of “spirit postman”, taking messages and receiving answers from those who have “passed on” to the spirit world.
Communication with the dead has been attempted from earliest times; it happened in Bible times, and it is condemned by God because it is either a fraud or a misuse of natural mental resources possessed by some. The question has to be asked: If we can contact and be guided by those who have passed on, why has their presumed wisdom and experience not been used to benefit the living world? Why are the “messages” received by mediums generally so trivial and useless? Why are the “dead” unable to tell us about life in the spirit world; why do they confine their conversation largely to things they know about and would have experienced in their lifetime? We can rest assured that the dead are in no state to communicate with us and all such attempts are a waste of time and effort, and, more importantly, made in defiance of God’s teaching, His clear prohibition, and are an insult to Him.
It depends what you mean by ghosts. Following on from the idea that all men and women have “immortal souls” that continue to live after death, we have the variant idea of “ghosts”. The disciples of Jesus, when they saw him walking on the water thought they had seen a “spirit” or ghost. Ghosts are said to be the spirits or souls of the dead who have been unable to leave the earth. Sometimes they are thought to be permanently in this state, and sometimes they are ghosts only until the departed spirit is reconciled to his new life in the after world.
According to the tradition, it is sometimes necessary for humans to intervene and right some wrong or fulfil an obligation for the ghost to enable them to go gently on their way. Some churches believe that “ghosts” can be “exorcised” or laid to rest by clergymen performing certain rituals. We can be certain that if the Bible is reliable, then there are no such thing as ghosts as the manifestations of departed spirits.
Some physic researchers, who do not necessarily accept that this kind of ghost exists, nevertheless believe that some kind of dramatic happening or emotional event, such as a violent death, can leave an impression in the surroundings in which the event happened, thus we get “haunted houses.” Some people are thought to be sensitive to these impressions and, given an equally emotional situation, can be instrumental in releasing the impression, causing a re-enactment of the event to be seen, and so the “ghost” walks. It sometimes happens that small articles move about a room apparently of their own volition, and this is attributed to “poltergeists” or mischievous spirits. It would be foolish to dismiss as impossible what we do not understand, but if these things happen, then they have no relevance to our Christian life or Christian hopes, and can be dismissed as no more than a curiosity.
In addition to the belief that we continue to exist after death in a spirit world some people also believe that our ancestors, in this future state, can influence our lives and need to be shown respect by the living. Many communities live in a constant state of anxiety because they fear that their ancestors will be angry if they are not shown proper respect, and that anger will be demonstrated by the ancestor interfering in their lives. It is easy to attribute misfortune to the activity of slighted ancestors, but it is impossible to prove.
In the Western World respect for the dead is shown by having a funeral, followed by burial or cremation, and then sometimes a memorial stone is erected by the grave recording who they were, how they were appreciated in this life, and their hopes for the life to come. Although the graves are frequently cared for by close relatives for some time after the death out of respect for the memory of the one who has died, this is the end of any relationship between the living and the dead until the resurrection.
There is no general belief in the Christian world that our lives are influenced by the dead. In the East respect for the departed is taken further, because it is believed that the dead ancestor is able to influence the lives of his children and perhaps bring misfortune on them if they do not remember him by bringing him offerings and showing him respect. The Bible teaches us that only Jesus Christ, who has been raised from the dead, can and will influence our lives. All other people who have once lived cease to exist when they die. Their bodies will remain in the grave until they dissolve into the dust. Those who understand and believe the promise of the Bible similarly die and are laid to rest to await their resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ.
There is a strong belief in many parts of the world that when we die our “soul” passes into the body of another living creature, and continues its life on earth in a new form. This belief goes back to the time of the ancient Greeks before the time of Christ. It is called “reincarnation”. The choice of the new body which the soul is supposed to enter depends on the life it has lived in its old body. For example, a wicked man might be degraded to continue his eternal life in the form of a dog, or a worm, whereas a good man with a modest life-style might find himself promoted into the newly born body of a man or woman who would have a prosperous life, or become a ruler. Others believe that the choice of the body they will enter in the next life depends on what experiences the person needs to improve him. This process of change from one life to another is supposed to be a continuous process affecting all living creatures.
This idea has found its way into the West and is enjoying current interest because some hypnotists claim to be able to release the minds of their patients to reveal things that happened in a former existence while they are under the influence of hypnosis. Again, this is capable of fraud, but some researchers put forward the possibility that we have “genetic memories” capable of being passed on from one generation to the next. This is only a theory, but however unlikely, it is unwise to reject what we do not understand unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.
The Bible knows nothing of reincarnation, and offers us an entirely different and better hope of life beyond the grave at the resurrection in God’s kingdom; therefore we can dismiss it altogether as an invention of the human mind.
Many people from the beginning of man’s existence have claimed the ability to reveal the future of individual persons, or tell the fate of nations, or reveal specific future events. Since the Bible tells us of many instances where this has happened, we accept that it is possible. In Bible times there were many ways in which this is done. The most obvious is for the “seer” or prophet to receive a message in his mind, or have a dream, a vision, or a trance in which he sees something happening in the future. These messages concerning the future could only be given by God to those who were His trusted servants or people for whom He had a particular message.
The pagan peoples in old times attempted to do the same and they had their magicians and soothsayers, but their wisdom and ability to predict the future was limited to that of the human mind. This is well illustrated by an event recorded in Daniel chapter 3 in which the incompetence of the Chaldean magicians is compared to the way in which God communicates His will to His faithful servants. A popular method among the pagans was to examine the entrails of birds or animals and in some way which we do not now understand, the investigator claimed to be able to tell whether a particular course of action was advisable. There were so called wise men and women who would give answers to specific questions, usually worded in such a way that whatever happened it could be said to have been foretold.
In these days telling the future is seen by most people as a game, but many take it seriously. They will have their palms read, look into the crystal ball, see what the cards turn up, or consult their horoscopes. The absurdity is apparent. Most popular newspapers and magazines print regular horoscopes by which people can learn what the future is supposed to hold for them. They tell their readers to select the sign of the Zodiac relative to their birthday, and see what is written about people born under that sign. Presumably if they consult enough newspapers on any given day they will have enough contradictory or complementary forecasts to encourage them to do, or not do, anything. But it is all good for the newspaper industry.
We believe that God alone controls the future of the nations of the world, and is also responsible for the paths we as individuals take in life, although it must appear to us that we make decisions for ourselves. Nothing is pointless or haphazard. Everything in life is working together to achieve God’s purpose. God has in the past instructed His servants with regard to His arrangements for the future, and these are revealed to us in the Bible. (See section “Does the Bible contain Prophecies for the Future?”)
The simple answer is “Yes” – the whole of the Bible is in a sense a prophecy because it is full of information about what God plans to do in the future. Take an example: we read in Genesis chapter 17 that God would establish a covenant with Abraham; that Abraham would be the father of many nations; that it would be an everlasting covenant; and that God would give to Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan (present day Israel) for an everlasting possession. That was four thousand years ago. In the years between then and now we have seen Abraham’s descendants grow into a large nation, the nation of Israel, who have lived in and out of the Promised Land. We see them now struggling for total possession of that land. The covenant – the prophecy – said it would be “for an everlasting possession”. So we have a prophecy partly fulfilled, but with the complete prophecy still awaiting fulfilment. The Apostle Paul refers to this covenant in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians as a prophecy still to be fulfilled, and explains how it will include both Jews and Gentiles in its final fulfilment.
Take another example. The religious celebration of Christmas every year directs Christians to the words of the Prophet Isaiah. In chapter 7 the Prophet tells Ahaz the king of Judah that “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.” The prophecy continues in chapter 9:6–7 where the prophet tells the people that the child spoken of “shall be great, and rule over the House of David for ever”. Chapter 11 describes the peaceful reign of this future king, and this theme is continued throughout the book. There is no doubt that this wonderful promise concerns the Lord Jesus Christ, because the Gospel writers in the New Testament say so (Matthew 1:20–23; Luke 1:27), but it was addressed in the first place to Ahaz, the king of Judah around 742 BCE. There is a primary fulfilment of this prophecy in the birth of Hezekiah, the firstborn son of Ahaz, who encouraged the people to return to the worship of Israel’s God, and who, with God’s intervention, defeated the threat of Assyrian invasion and conquest and brought peace and prosperity to the land of Israel for his lifetime. The major fulfilment of the prophecy started with the birth of Jesus Christ. He brought salvation to all mankind, and will complete the fulfilment of the prophecy when he returns to set up God’s kingdom on earth. This secondary fulfilment will be parallel to the first fulfilment in Hezekiah’s days but even more glorious. The primary fulfilment, brought about by God in otherwise incredible circumstances gives the guarantee that God will also complete the prophecy through Jesus Christ when He is ready.
From this example we learn an important characteristic of most Bible prophecies. There has been a primary fulfilment at the time the prophecy was given involving the people actually addressed by the prophet, usually the nation of Israel, or one of the surrounding nations, and then a secondary major fulfilment including people out of all nations, and involving some aspect of the life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, either fulfilled in his lifetime, or yet to be fulfilled when he returns.
We have also to consider the chronological or time prophecies. We approach this subject with a little more hesitation. There are many time prophecies particularly in the books of Daniel and the Revelation which state that certain events will take place at or within a given time. Until recently the accepted basis of understanding time prophecies was that where the prophet speaks of days, these are in reality years or even longer periods of time, but it is difficult to make this apply to all such prophecies. The Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:8) quotes Psalm 90 to the effect that one day in God’s sight is to Him a thousand years, and a thousand years a day. This may be telling us something with regard to time prophecies, or it may be no more than a statement by Peter that time in God’s experience does not relate to time as we know it.
One particular prophecy in the 9th chapter of the book of Daniel would seem to justify reading days as years. It refers to seventy weeks, which using this time-scale would be 70 x 7 days = 490 days/years. The prophecy relates to the time between Israel’s release from captivity and the coming of the Messiah. If the end-date of the prophecy, the “cutting off” or death of the Messiah – Jesus Christ, comes as Daniel states in the middle of the seventieth week, or 486 years after the release from captivity, then this suggests we look for that release date about the year 450 BCE. According to the Book of Nehemiah, the Persian king Artaxerxes gave permission in the twentieth year of his reign for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, enabling some of the Jews to return from captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem. Historians place this at between 446 and 454 BCE. If this date is added to the years of the life of Christ we have 454 + 33 = 487 years, which approximates closely, and maybe precisely, to the time stated by Daniel in his prophecy.
Other prophecies in which time periods are expressed in days have been interpreted by Bible scholars on this “day-for-a-year” principle, and at the time the interpretations were made, their speculations seemed reasonable. But as the years pass and end-dates come and go they have been reluctantly re-appraised or even rejected. Many scholars now favour the interpretation in which the days mentioned are in some cases literal days, and thus have reference to comparatively short periods of time linked closely to events which will happen at the time of Christ’s return.
Since we believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, we do not doubt that the time prophecies are being, and will be fulfilled in some way, but we have not yet been blessed with the correct understanding. Perhaps we are not meant to be. Many who respect the Bible are disappointed about the failure to tie up the time prophecies neatly, but there are comforting thoughts. Most of the calculations made so far now make the return of Christ overdue, which can’t be bad – we are living on borrowed time! And the sequence of events described in other prophecies not related to time have nearly all been fulfilled, which independently indicates the approaching end of the age.
Perhaps the prophecy most relevant to our times is given by Jesus and recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is a direct reply to his disciples’ questions as to what would be the sign of his coming and of the end of the age. Jesus gives us signs to look out for which will indicate the nearness of these events. These signs well describe the times we live in and we may conclude that the return of Christ and the end of the age are at hand. These chapters are worth reading.
The Inspiration of the Bible is the name we give to the belief that all of the Bible is the work of God. Not just that the Bible contains the Word of God, but that it is the Word of God. We base this understanding on the fact that the Lord Jesus and the New Testament writers quoted extensively from the Old Testament to confirm and justify their belief in God, and the Old Testament Scriptures as God’s Word. The early Church believed that the gospel and letter writers of the New Testament were similarly inspired by God, and the New Testament makes this claim for itself. The Apostle Peter sums up this assurance in his second letter:
“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body; because I know that I will soon put it aside, as Our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying “This is My Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:12–21)
Peter refers to the incident when God gave His approval to His Son Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration, confirming that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Concerning the God-given authenticity of the New Testament, it should help to convince us when we realise that the faithful followers of Jesus gave their lives to preserve what they knew to be the Word of God and to ensure that it was spread throughout the world.
How did the thoughts and messages from God come to be written down? We believe that God through the Holy Spirit put his thoughts and messages into the minds of faithful men, who then committed them to writing. The writing of each individual author carries his own style and personal imprint. The books of the Old Testament were carefully protected by the Jews, and when copies were made they were checked letter by letter against the original. The early churches were similarly the careful custodians of the New Testament Gospels and letters.
How do we know they are genuine? Because in the early churches there were men filled with the Holy Spirit who would have been sure whether or not the documents they held and circulated were in fact the divinely inspired word of God. There were many letters and other writings circulating among the early churches, but the Christians of those days were clear in their own minds which were the work of God and which of human origin. The Bible as we have it today is as it was put together by the early church.
When considering the Bible as inspired, there are certain difficulties we have to contend with, but they are not insuperable.
1. We do not now have the original documents in our possession. The translators worked from documents which had been copied many times, and contained copying errors. Modern versions frequently have footnotes explaining that certain words or phrases or whole sections are of doubtful authenticity, for example Mark 16:9–20, because they say they are not found in the oldest manuscripts.
2. The translators did not always understand the exact meaning of the Greek, and more particularly of the Hebrew they were translating. An example may be quoted from the book of Proverbs 30:29–31. The writer refers to four things which are “stately in their stride” – A lion, a greyhound, a he-goat, and a king with his army around him (King James Version). Modern versions have changed “greyhound” for “a strutting cock” Young’s Concordance has “a stag, girt in the loins”, and the Revised English Bible says “Meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.” No amount of scholarship now will discover the original meaning, and it is clear that the translators are just guessing. In this case it hardly matters; we get the general idea intended by the writer from the context. Incidentally, the Jews who translated the Old Testament into Greek, the version known as the Septuagint, left out chapter 30 and part of 31 of the Book of Proverbs, presumably on the grounds that they were not the work of King Solomon?
A New Testament example might be taken from a well known passage – John 19:5. Most translators have Pilate presenting Jesus to the Jews with the words “Behold the Man!” But the Greek manuscripts do not attribute these words to “Pilate” They read: “Then came Jesus out, wearing the thorny crown and the purple robe, and HE says to them “Behold the man.” The obvious reading is that Jesus is speaking of and indicating himself, particularly when it is realised that Jesus is quoting from the prophet Zechariah, 6:12, a verse which refers prophetically to him, “BEHOLD THE MAN whose name is THE BRANCH …AND HE SHALL BUILD THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD.” This verse would be familiar to the Jews, and it is linked to the first accusation they made against Jesus. The witnesses who testified against Christ said “We heard him say ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands and in three days I will build another made without hands’” (Mark 14:58.). Jesus quoting Zechariah in this way would have increased the anger of the Jews, and caused them to shout for his crucifixion. The word “Pilate” has been added to the text by the translators without any textual authority because in their opinion the text did not make sense without it. But they were wrong, and in so doing they have destroyed a valuable link with the Old Testament, and broken the real sequence of events at the trial of Jesus.
3. The translators approached their task their minds filled with centuries of corrupted Christianity. They wanted the Bible to confirm their beliefs in immortal souls, rewards in heaven, and eternal punishment in hell fire. For example, older Versions record the death of Rachel (Genesis 35:17–19) with the words “And it came to pass as “her soul was in departing,” (for she died) that she called (her son’s) name Ben-oni, but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died and was buried in the way to Ephrath.” Modern translators have realised that such a translation is invalid, and have changed the wording to “As she breathed her last – for she was dying” which is an accurate rendering of the Hebrew.
A New Testament example might be quoted. Matthew 5:22 in most versions refers to sinners being in danger of “hell fire.” The original Greek refers to Gehenna, an abbreviation for “the valley of the sons of Hinnom” (Ge = the Greek word for “land”, Henna –Greek = Hinnom –Hebrew). This was the local rubbish incinerator just outside Jerusalem. It was kept burning continuously, and the bodies of criminals were thrown into Gehenna. This deliberate mistranslation is still perpetuated to back up the false idea of everlasting punishment of souls in hell fire.
It will be seen that we cannot always take the wording of the Bible as we have it today at its face value, particularly when verses are quoted out of context. It is sometimes necessary to do a little research to get as near as we can to the true meaning of the inspired original, and the first requirement is to compare any passages which puzzle us with the rest of Scripture. Having said this, these minor inaccuracies and corruptions by human hands are insignificant when taken with the Bible as a whole and do not seriously interfere with the message of the Bible, which is inspired by God and “able to make us wise unto salvation.”
The need for new translations arises from several sources. Since the Bible was first translated into European languages, more early manuscripts have been discovered which were not available to the translators of the New Testament in the 16th Century CE. Also scholarly understanding of the kind of Greek in use when the New Testament was written, has improved, enabling them to have a more accurate understanding of the New Testament and the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament. At the other end of the timescale the languages we speak today in the 21st century have changed from those of the 17th century which were spoken when the Bible was most widely translated and distributed. It is possible to speak more clearly to the Bible readers of today by using words and expressions and the style of language they are familiar with. We benefit from the great number of translations and versions because they give us the opportunity to compare alternative ways of thinking about the text.
There is now no authorised inspired text to which we can refer. The message from God which was originally committed to writing many years ago by faithful, inspired men, has passed through the hands of many copyists and translators, and it still lives in the words of all responsible versions today. Compared with the vastness and importance of the message itself, the differences between the various versions are minimal, and unimportant. They do not interfere with the message God has given us. The differences themselves serve to draw our attention to God’s Word, and give us cause to consider it more carefully and thoroughly.
In the last two hundred years much research has been devoted to translating the Bible into the languages spoken in the more remote parts of the world. It is now possible for most people of all nationalities to read the Bible in their own language. The American Bible Society reports that it now publishes the Bible in over two thousand languages. We understand this spread of the knowledge of the Bible to be a fulfilment of the words of Jesus “And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14). The peoples of America, Africa, India and Asia now have, with the people of Europe, the Bible in their hands, and we accept this as a guarantee that this age is drawing to its close, and that we can expect the return of the Lord Jesus. The only caution we would give is that some modern versions, just as much as the earlier ones, are biased towards the beliefs of those who have translated them, and this should be understood and allowed for.
The purpose of miracles worked by Jesus and by other faithful men of God is to confirm God’s message. When God had a message for Pharaoh in Egypt, He confirmed it by enabling Moses to show Pharaoh “signs and wonders” which demonstrated the power and ability of God. Many of God’s faithful servants in Old Testament times had this power given to them for this purpose. Jesus and the Apostles also worked miracles as evidence that what God was telling the people through them was true.
Some Christians say today, “If we are preaching God’s message as Christ did, then we too can work miracles, we can speak with tongues, we can heal the people.” They hold meetings at which they give demonstrations of their supposed powers. If God wants men and women to be able to work miracles, then of course He will make it possible for them to do so, but there is no Scriptural or historical evidence that the ability to work miracles in support of the Gospel message continued after the first generation of Christians passed off the scene.
The power of the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles after Jesus had ascended into heaven. It enabled them to speak in foreign languages and do miracles of healing. The Apostles were given the ability to pass on this power at their discretion by the “laying on of hands” , . The Apostle Paul, speaking of “spiritual gifts”, says the time would come when such powers would cease, and we believe this to be the case. On consideration, it would seem that it was necessary for God to offer some convincing confirmation of His amazing message to mankind, in addition to the words of the Apostles themselves, who were by human standards, with the exception of Paul and Luke, ignorant and uneducated men. The added testimony of miracles ensured that the Gospel message would be rapidly accepted, appreciated, and spread abroad. Once the church was established in the world and the Gospel had been committed to writing and was in safe hands, miraculous powers had served their purpose.
There is another good reason to doubt the genuineness of present day miracle workers: those who claim miraculous powers today are not preaching the Gospel of Christ and the Apostles. God would not lend His support by enabling people who are corrupting His message to work miracles.
The miracles worked by Jesus and the Apostles, raising the dead, healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, and having authority over the natural world were also a demonstration of what God’s Kingdom, which they were preaching, would be like. It was a sample of what the future holds for those who trust God – no more death, sickness, or want of the necessary things of life, and the ability to talk to all men and women of the wonderful gifts of God with clarity and conviction. If people in this age could work miracles would it not seriously diminish the purpose and value of God’s Kingdom in the age to come? We think it has already diverted the attention and the expectation of many away from the glorious future which is in God’s hands to a present experience which is no more than the manipulation of human sensitivities by deluded or even unscrupulous promoters.
Having the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” as the Apostles did is not to be confused with the Holy Spirit being with us in our lives. Without our awareness, but with infinite love and wisdom, God, by the Holy Spirit guides and protects those who place their trust in Him.
In the Bible, The Holy Spirit is the name given to the power by which God works. The first two verses of the Bible tell us: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The book of Genesis goes on to tell us that God by His Spirit created the universe.
Throughout the Old Testament the Spirit of God is mentioned repeatedly as the influence that guided the faithful men and women of Israel. Pharaoh recognised that Joseph’s ability to organise the Egyptians in the face of the coming famine was God-given – “Can we find anyone like this man in whom is the spirit of God?” Similarly the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and his successors recognised that “the Spirit of the Holy Gods” was with Daniel, because he was able to interpret the dreams that they had. An interesting case is that of Elijah and Elisha the prophets. When Elisha succeeded Elijah as God’s representative to Israel, he asked Elijah that “a double portion of thy spirit (the Holy Spirit given by God to Elijah) be upon me.” Although Elijah had been a commanding figure in Israel, Elisha was far more involved with miraculous happenings which demonstrated the power of the God of Israel. Was this the double portion of Elijah’s spirit that became available to Elisha?
The New Testament begins with Jesus being baptised in the river Jordan, and at the same time anointed with the Holy Spirit, an event which all the Gospel writers record. Matthew then tells us that Jesus then began to preach saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, and that as he preached he healed “all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torment and those which were possessed with devils and those which were lunatick and those that had the palsy”. The association of preaching coupled with the demonstration of God’s power to heal continues throughout the life of Jesus and the Apostles.
In the FAQ section “Is God a Trinity?” we have explained that the church in the early centuries saw the Holy Spirit as having a separate living existence, and made it a person co-equal and co-eternal with Jesus and His Father. The Eastern churches were much slower to accept this definition than the Roman Catholic churches of Western Europe. The churches, in support of their claim that the Holy Spirit is an individual person of the Trinity, make reference to the promise of Jesus to send his disciples a “Comforter”. This is found in John’s Gospel. This Comforter was to be a help to them in their work of preaching. He would “teach them all things and bring all things to their remembrance, whatsoever Jesus had said to them.” There is no suggestion here that this Comforter was a person. The comforter would be “the spirit of truth”. It would be God at work through the Holy Spirit at the request of Jesus. The Greek word translated here as “comforter” is also translated “advocate” in other versions. In his first epistle the same writer John refers to Jesus as our advocate: “if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous”. This would make Jesus Christ himself the “Comforter”
The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:
“Blessed be God, even the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
So ultimately it is God who comforts us, through Jesus, through His Holy Spirit. In the lifetime of the Lord Jesus his presence and daily supply of wisdom and encouragement comforted the disciples. After his death the Apostles had the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told them: “When they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” In these days our guidance and comfort comes in the first place from the Word of God that He has given us for that very purpose which we understand and retain with our memory, which is also God given. God is ever present by His spirit to minister to our every need.
The Bible as it is today is in two parts, the Old and the New Testament. The Old Testament was written mainly in Hebrew with a few passages in Aramaic, on papyrus or parchment. It consists of 39 books. The number of writers and the dates that the various books were written is uncertain. Apart from the named books there may have been several scribes who contributed to Books of the Kings and Chronicles and although David composed most of the Psalms, some are attributed to other writers, and it is not known exactly how or when they were collected together into one book. Job was probably the first book to be written, followed by the books of Moses, but Moses may have had access to earlier written records and verbal tradition. He wrote about 1500 BCE. The last writer to contribute was the prophet Malachi who wrote after the return from captivity in Babylon about 400 BCE. Many copies of the Old Testament would have been made during this period, particularly copies of the five books of Moses, known as the “Torah”. From these copies scribes in Alexandria translated the Old Testament into Greek sometime between 270 and 130 BCE. Christ and the Apostles quote from this Greek translation known as the Septuagint in their preaching, but they would also have had access to the original Hebrew scrolls in the local synagogues.
Nearly a thousand years later Hebrew scholars produced what is called the Masoretic text which updated the ancient Hebrew written language which by this time was only imperfectly understood by scholars, and which was no longer in common use.
The 27 books of the New Testament were written in Greek. With one exception the writers are all as stated. The exception is the Letter to the Hebrews which is not named, but the majority view is that it was written by the Apostle Paul.
About the year 400 CE. A scholar named Jerome translated into Latin a complete Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek documents, and this is called the “Vulgate”. It was generally available only to the scholars of the Roman Catholic Church. In the 13th and 14th centuries translations were made into French and secretly circulated, and in England John Wycliffe made a translation into English. In 1516 CE. the Dutch scholar Erasmus revised the New Testament from Greek and Latin documents not previously available, which resulted in a more accurate text. (There was an earlier translation into Latin which was copied and used in parts of Europe and North Africa).
In 1526 CE William Tyndale translated into English a complete a New Testament with part of the Old Testament. Ten years later Coverdale completed the Old Testament, and for the first time complete Bibles in English, known as the “Great Bible” were “Appointed to be read in churches” by King Henry VIII. With the return of Catholicism under Queen Mary Tudor, work on revising and improving the translation became impossible in England and was transferred to Geneva in Switzerland, where refugees from Mary’s persecution had settled. In 1560 the “Geneva Bible” was published. The Geneva Bible was a Calvinist publication and it was heavily annotated with anti-clerical comments, and it became the preferred translation in Protestant England. This translation also coincided with improvements in printing which made its production and distribution easier. In 1611 King James I commissioned the “Authorised Version” which was a revision based upon all previously available scholarship and this has remained in common use until the present day. The Geneva Bible continued in use under Cromwell and the Puritans, but when the monarchy was restored the marginal notes made it politically incorrect, and the King James Authorised Version gradually took over as the only Bible in production and in common use in England.
Meanwhile in Europe translations had been made into German, French and other European languages, but the Roman Catholic Church felt that it was not wise to have the Bible in the hands of the common people who would misunderstand it. Its distribution was suppressed, and existing copies seized and burned. Far from the Bible being misunderstood, the real fear of the Church was that reading the Bible would expose the way in which it was being misused and neglected.
In the 19th century the discovery of more ancient Greek texts, particularly the Codex Sinaiticus found in the Convent of St Catherine at the foot of Mt. Sinai in 1844, brought pressure for another revision and in 1885 the Revised Version was produced. This is still reckoned by many to be the most accurate translation available today, but this will always be a matter of opinion. About the same time Christian missionaries realised the need for the Bible to be available in all languages and in every country where they were preaching the gospel.
Gradually and persistently even the most obscure languages came to be understood and translations were made and printed. Now the American Bible Society reports that the Bible is available in over two thousand languages.
Following two world wars and the inevitable changes in the way people talked and used language, there were several attempts to produce Bibles that simplified the language and made the Bible easier to read and understand. This received great impetus in 1947 when a massive horde of very early manuscripts known as “The Dead Sea Scrolls” was found in caves in the Jordan Valley. These date back to pre-Christian times, and are therefore of prime importance. Among the documents are parts of every Old Testament book except Esther. After years of scholarship devoted to these scrolls, scholars have concluded that after making careful comparisons, there are very few errors in our current versions of the Old Testament, and that the few they have found are not significant.
The version of the Bible which has found most favour in recent years is the New International Version which has a readable text suitable for the 21st century. First produced in 1979 it is constantly being revised and with each new printing the text changes slightly as current scholarship comes up with preferred readings. It has copious footnotes giving alternative renderings where translations are disputed, or the manuscript text in doubt. In recent years The New King James Version has come on the market, which is the 1611 Bible with minor corrections, and the language brought up-to-date.
Many other versions, particularly of the New Testament, have been published over the last hundred years or so, most of them aimed either at more accuracy in the text, or making the text more understandable to the modern mind. We must always bear in mind that there is one original inspired text which is the work of God, which we do not have, and that our Bible, whichever version we use, has been copied and translated by man. We must therefore make allowances for the differences we find from version to version. It is also reasonable to believe that God who gave us the Bible in the first place that we might understand and obey Him, would have continued to guide and protect His work through the many copyings, translations and revisions which it has undergone through the ages. The Bible we have in our hands today is as much the Word of God now as it was when it was first written so many years ago.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that at the Breaking of Bread, which they call the “Mass” or the Communion Service, the bread and the wine actually changes into the body and blood of Christ at the request of the priest. This is known as “Transubstantiation.”
The Catholics claim that this doctrine is to be found in the writings of some of the early church fathers, but scholars generally agree that it was first expressed with any clarity by a monk named Paschasius Radbertus in the 9th century CE. It was incorporated into the Creed of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 CE. and defined at the Council of Trent as follows:
“By the consecration of the bread and wine, a conversion (or change) is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ Our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.
“If anyone saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.”
Although some of the Protestant Reformers, in the 16th Century CE, including Martin Luther, were reluctant to give up this doctrine, most very soon discarded it as mere trickery introduced in the dark ages of Europe to enhance the authority of the priests. Nothing can be found in Scripture that gives any support to this doctrine.
By David Whitehouse
The house was blazing and fire-fighters were rescuing people trapped inside. It was extremely dangerous and the firefighters had to apply their skills with great care.
“Thank you SO much for saving me”, gasped one man who had finally been brought to safety. “No problem”, said the fire-fighter, “but you stay well away from the building now; don’t go anywhere near until we say it is OK”.
Some minutes later the man ran back to a part of the house that did not look as though it was on fire.
No-one knew why and no-one could stop him.
Suddenly there was an almighty crash and part of the building fell on him, killing him outright.
Remember Lot’s Wife
There is a similar account in the Bible.
Angels visited the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and told the man Lot to get out, together with his family. God was going to destroy these cities because their inhabitants were so wicked. Lot’s family was led to safety by the angels, who even held their hands and told them “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain” (Genesis 19:14–17).
However, after being taken out of the city, Lot’s wife did look back and was turned into a pillar of salt. Jesus refers to this in Luke 17:32, warning people of the importance of taking notice of his words.
In each of these scenarios people had been removed from inevitable destruction by being taken to a safe place, but they subsequently perished because of their own foolishness.
Doubtless they thought they were ‘saved’, even though they perished.
Jesus our Saviour
We are all painfully aware that the human race is a dying race. Everyone dies. However, the Bible tells us that God sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14). In fact, being associated with the name of Jesus is the only way of escaping permanent death.
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
God has provided a way of escaping inevitable destruction. Consequently, the Bible refers to believers as ‘saved’ (2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5, Romans 8:24).
Some professing Christians believe that this means that eternal life is guaranteed to them, whatever might happen. This is not what the Bible says. The death of Jesus can save us from the inevitability of death, just as Lot’s wife was saved from the brimstone and fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24).
However, just like Lot’s wife, we might still perish. This is clear in the writings of the apostles. In 2 Timothy chapter 1, the apostle Paul describes believers as ‘saved’ (verse 9), but subsequently urges Timothy to ‘hold fast the pattern of sound words’ (verse 13) and clearly states that some people have in fact strayed from the correct way (2:16–18).
Similarly, Paul tells the believers at Corinth that they are saved by the gospel “if you hold fast the word which I preached to you” (I Corinthians 15:2). Jesus himself says that “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 and 24:13). The point is reinforced in I Corinthians 1:18 where Paul describes believers as those “who are being saved” (also 2 Corinthians 2:15).
God Asks Us to Obey
God has saved mankind from the otherwise inevitable death sentence. However, He asks us to respond individually: to believe and be baptised:
“He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).
Jesus said that:
“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
These are very strong words without any possibility of compromise. Later in the chapter Jesus says that we must believe on the ‘name’ of the Son of God (v 18). It is abundantly clear that this belief is not merely an intellectual assent to the record of Jesus’ life. It also requires a personal commitment, which must be based on an understanding of what the ‘name’ means.
Jesus means ‘Saviour’ and Christ means ‘Anointed One’. Those names spell out God’s plan: to save us because of what Jesus has done and to send him again as King.
The Only Name
In Acts 4:17–18 Jesus’ name is associated with doctrine (i.e. beliefs). It is therefore necessary to understand his name and the implications for our relationship with him. Jesus commanded his followers to live by the same selfless and godly principles that he did (John 13:34). He described this as taking up the cross:
“Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
This obviously requires us to understand what Jesus himself believed and how he lived.
We have been offered a reprieve from the death sentence that we inherited from the moment we were born.
God offers us salvation. Please don’t ignore this life-saving offer.
By Anna Hart
The Bible Is Our Guide To Salvation
The Bible provides us with plain Scriptural Teaching for the True Followers of Christ
The statements on this guide represent what we believe is true Bible teaching. The statements are deliberately challenging, asking every reader to compare his own opinions with the plain teaching of Scripture, examining carefully the Bible passages offered as proof. If, as a result, a change of mind and heart is called for, there will be no doubt that the teaching of the Lord, and the book he trusted, must be followed and not what the churches teach.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James (also known as the Revised Authorized) Version of the Bible.
If we claim to follow Christ we should trust in the Scriptures as confidently as Jesus and his Apostles did:
Jesus: “The Scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35)
Paul: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Peter: “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21)
“The things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1 Peter 1:12)
True faith must be founded on a fully inspired Bible.
If we claim to follow Christ we should admit that we are sinful and dying creatures, without hope of life except in Christ:
Moses: Dust you are and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)
Isaiah: All flesh is grass, and its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades. (Isaiah 40:6-7)
James: For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)
Peter: All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers and the flower falls away. (1 Peter 1:24)
The Bible makes it plain that we are mortal: only when we admit this can we truly look forward to the salvation it offers.
The Future of the Righteous and their Reward
If we claim to follow Christ we should admit that our reward is to be looked for on the earth, not in heaven:
The Psalms: But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5)
Jesus: And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on earth. (Revelation 5:10)
Daniel: The stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth … In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. (Daniel 2:35,44)
The greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. (Daniel 7:27)
The Psalms: The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; but the earth he has given to the children of men (Psalm 115:16)
John: No man has ascended to heaven, but he who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven. (John 3:13)
The Bible tells us that the reward is at present reserved in heaven with Christ, to be revealed on earth at his coming:
Peter: An inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you … salvation ready to be revealed in the last time … and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:4,5,13)
Paul: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly await for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body. (Philippians 3:20,21)
The Bible tells us that the earth, where god placed men in the beginning is the place where he will receive his blessing.
The State of the Dead
If we claim to follow Christ we should recognize that the grave is a place of unconsciousness, which only resurrection can bring to an end:
The Psalms: For in death there is no remembrance of you; in the grave who will give you thanks? (Psalm 6:5)
Hezekiah: For Sheol [=grave] cannot thank you, death cannot praise you; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your truth. (Isaiah 38:18)
Peter: David, that is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day … For David did not ascend into the heavens (Acts 2:29,34)
Paul: And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are all still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)
The grave, and the hell of the Old Testament, are the same word and the same place. It is to this place of oblivion that all the dead must go.
The Return of Christ to Earth
If we claim to follow Christ we should join all his early disciples in looking for his second coming:
Jesus: The son of man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him… (Matthew 25:31)
Angels: This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven (Acts 1:11)
Peter: And that (God) may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before (Acts 3:20)
Paul: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Only by his second coming can Christ complete the work he began when he came before.
Jesus the King
If we claim to follow Christ we shall be sure that our Lord Jesus Christ, on his return, is to be king over the earth:
The Angel Gabriel: He will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32,33)
Jesus: Do not swear … by Jerusalem for it is the city of the Great King (Matthew 5:34,35)
Jeremiah: Behold, the days are coming, saith the LORD, that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is his name by which he will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:5,6)
Zechariah: And in that day his feet will stand on the mount of Olives … And the Lord shall be king over all the earth. In that day it shall be – “The LORD is one”, and his name one. (Zechariah 14:4,9)
Paul: Because (God) has appointed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained . He has given assurance of this to all, by raising him from the dead.- (Acts 17:31)
Only by the righteous reign of Jesus over the whole earth will it be possible for God to fill the whole earth with His glory.
The Kingdom of God
If we claim to follow Christ we can rejoice in the knowledge that God will establish His Kingdom in power over all the earth:
Daniel: And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand for ever. (Daniel 2:44)
Jesus: The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever … We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the one who is and who was and who is to come, because you have taken your great power and reigned. (Revelation 11:15,17)
God Is Truly Ruler Over All His Universe
The Psalms: The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19)
Daniel: The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever he chooses … his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:25,34)
He once established His kingdom in Israel, and removed it because of His people’s wickedness:
Moses: If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant … you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:5,6)
David: Blessed are you, LORD God of Israel, our Father, for ever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head over all… Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, and prospered. ( 1 Chronicles 29:10,11,23)
Ezekiel: Now to you O profane and wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, whose iniquity shall end, thus saith the LORD GOD: Remove the turban and take off the crown … Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until he come whose right it is, and I will give it to him. (Ezekiel 21:25-27)
When Jesus reestablishes the kingdom, rebellious Israel must repent, and the unrepentant will be rejected:
Zechariah: Then they will look on me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son. (Zechariah 12:10; see Revelation 1:7)
Jesus: There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. (Luke 13:28)
Jesus will establish his kingdom by subduing the nations, and moreover the nation which crucified him will need to submit.
The Source of Sin
If we claim to follow Christ we shall acknowledge that sin springs from the human heart, and find in mankind the “devil” who is at enmity against God:
Jeremiah: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9)
James: But each one is tempted when he is drawn away of his own desires, and enticed. (James 1:14)
Hebrews: Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared in the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil. But now, once at the end of the ages, he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 2:14;9:26)
Jesus: For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man. (Mark 7:21-23)
Paul: Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, evil, murders, drunkenness, revels, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
The Bible traces the origin of human sinfulness to the fall of man in Eden, and only by the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross can this “devil” be destroyed.
God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit
If we claim to follow Christ we shall, with Jesus our Lord, acknowledge the supremacy of God, the Father; we shall see in Jesus His obedient Son; and we shall see in the Holy Spirit his personal power:
Paul:8 There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
The head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3)
Now when all things are made subject to him, then the Son himself will also be made subject to him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28)
There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling: one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Jesus: My father is greater than I. (John 14:28)
The son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do. (John 15:10)
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (John 15:10)
Nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done. (Luke 22:42)
The Angel Gabriel: The holy spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that holy one who is born of you will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
Peter: Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. (Acts 10:38)
The Bible traces everything to God, that is, to the Father; it centers on the purpose of God in Jesus, that is, the Son; and it reveals God’s working among prophets, apostles and saints by his own power, that is, the Holy Spirit.
Faith in Jesus Christ
If we claim to follow Christ we shall know that faith in Jesus is essential. A Christian must accept the true gospel before he can belong to Christ:
Jesus: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
For if you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins. (John 8:24)
Paul: For (the Gospel of Christ) is the power of God to salvation for every one who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 1:16; 10:9)
Hebrews: But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
A Warning Against False Teaching
Paul: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach any gospel to you other than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)
A warning against simply following the majority:
Jesus: Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13,14)
The Bible does not allow us to take salvation for granted. The only way for sinners is to follow in obedience where Jesus has lead, in faith in him and in the Word of God he honored.
Taking Up the Cross
If we claim to follow Christ we shall want to renounce the weakness and pride of our fleshly nature, and lay it down after the pattern of Jesus’ death on the Cross:
Jesus: If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)
Paul: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who … humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with. (Romans 6:6)
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me… …And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires… …God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14)
Jesus: These are the little ones who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14)
By his death on the cross Jesus destroyed the power of sin, and is now perfect and immortal. Those who crucify their old way of life with Christ and seek to follow him, will receive his help to the same end.
If we claim to follow Christ we shall know that we must obey the command of Jesus, to follow our faith by baptism:
Jesus: Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness … Then Jesus, when he had been baptized, came up immediately from the water … and suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:15-17)
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5)
Peter: Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins … Then those who gladly received his word were baptized … and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:38,41,42)
Paul: As many of us were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death. (Romans 6:3,4)
In the Bible, baptism is a burial in water, undertaken by those who have confessed their desire to crucify their former lives, and start again in a risen life with Christ.
The “Christian Life”
If we claim to follow Christ we shall want to follow the pattern of Jesus’ life, and keep his commandments, remember his death, and keep unspotted from the world:
Jesus: If you love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. (John 13:34)
Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)
John: Do not love the world or the things in the world … For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but of the world. (1 John 2:15-16)
Paul and Jesus: For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same manor he also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
The Bible therefore encourages true Christians to remember the Lord in a regular Breaking of Bread, and to keep him constantly in remembrance in their lives, waiting always for his coming again.
Resurrection and Judgment
If we claim to follow Christ we shall know that one day we must stand before the Lord Jesus Christ as our Judge, to receive blessing or condemnation:
Jesus: Every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 13:36,37)
Paul: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Daniel: And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
Jesus: … and your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should reward your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth. (Revelation 11:18)
Paul: There will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust… Now as he reasoned about the righteousness, self control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid. (Acts 24:15,25)
Peter: They (who walk in the lusts of men) will give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5)
Those who have understood their duty to God, whether they have accepted it and obeyed in faith, or rejected or neglected it, must stand before the Lord’s judgment, for blessing or for rejection.
Jesus: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And he will set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… Then he will also say to those on the left hand, depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:31-41)
It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire. (Mark 9:43-48)
The hell fire of the Bible is the destruction of everything which is displeasing in God’s sight at a time of judgment. It is also called the “everlasting fire” and the “lake of fire”.
The Glorious End
If we claim to follow Christ we shall look to the time when the earth will be perfected through the work of Christ, and filled with God’s glory:
To Moses: But truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD. (Numbers 14:21)
The Psalms: Give the king your judgments, O GOD, and your righteousness to the king’s son. He will judge your people with righteousness… Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who only does wondrous things! And let the whole earth be filled with his glory. (Psalm 72:1,18,19)
Isaiah: They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters now cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
Habakkuk: For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters now cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)
Paul: Then comes the end, when he (Christ) delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when he puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26)
Jesus: Then death and Hades (the grave) were cast into the lake of fire… Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 20:14; 21:3,4)
Thus the Bible shows how the perfection intended in the work of creation will finally be realized, in the presence of all the true saints of God.
“The Holy Scriptures … are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15)