“Especially when you consider that the Bible itself wasn’t written by Jesus, but by men who say they were inspired by him and lived 500 years after he lived.
People often assume I’m anti-Christian, but I still have a relationship with Christ in my own way. What I don’t have a relationship with is The Bible, which was written by fallible men and edited several times by even more fallible men and then translated by equally fallible men into the contradictory tome it is today. Unless you never eat pig or wear clothing made of two different types of fabric, then you too have recognized that not every rule spelled out in the Bible is relevant to today.”
This is typical of comments I get at times from those who have rejected Biblical Christianity. I am not going to go into great detail on these subjects. I would recommend an excellent book titled “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell. It is a classic and one of the best written books defending the Christian faith and the Bible. I will point out some things but focus on the thinking behind such words.
It’s true the Bible wasn’t written by Jesus (by his hand) but it’s not true it was written by men who lived 500 years after Jesus. Jesus died around 33 AD. The last book of the NT was written around 90 AD or shortly after. All the books of the NT were written by men who knew Jesus or disciples of those men. Most of the authors of the NT were apostles. I don’t know where this person got the idea it was written 500 years later.
According to Got Questions:
For the New Testament, the process of the recognition and collection began in the first centuries of the Christian church. Very early on, some of the New Testament books were being recognized. Paul considered Luke’s writings to be as authoritative as the Old Testament (1 Timothy 5:18; see also Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7). Peter recognized Paul’s writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Some of the books of the New Testament were being circulated among the churches (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). Clement of Rome mentioned at least eight New Testament books (A.D. 95). Ignatius of Antioch acknowledged about seven books (A.D. 115). Polycarp, a disciple of John the apostle, acknowledged 15 books (A.D. 108). Later, Irenaeus mentioned 21 books (A.D. 185). Hippolytus recognized 22 books (A.D. 170-235). The New Testament books receiving the most controversy were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John.
The first “canon” was the Muratorian Canon, which was compiled in AD 170. The Muratorian Canon included all of the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and 3 John. In AD 363, the Council of Laodicea stated that only the Old Testament (along with one book of the Apocrypha) and 26 books of the New Testament (everything but Revelation) were canonical and to be read in the churches. The Council of Hippo (AD 393) and the Council of Carthage (AD 397) also affirmed the same 27 books as authoritative. (https://www.gotquestions.org/canon-Bible.html) As you can see, the completion of the NT happened hundreds of years earlier than “500 years after Jesus.” While Jesus did not write the NT, the writers of the NT were inspired by the Holy Spirit. God is a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God in three persons. It was the person of the Holy Spirit that inspired the writers of the NT. So it was divinely inspired whether it was written by Jesus or His followers.
To say the Bible today is a “contradictory tome” is misleading. Yes, there are passages that are debated but the core of the Christian faith is solid. It is not debated. Often those who claim contradictions read that on some website. Rarely have they even looked into the contradictions themselves. They are simply repeating something they read. Many scholarly books have been written about these so-called contradictions explaining them. There are people just looking for excuses to write-off the Bible. They don’t like the message of the Bible so they look for any reason to dismiss it. They find some website that claims contradictions and that’s good enough for them. That’s not examining the evidence. The truth is, there are no legitimate contradictions.
The implication was made that the Bible was edited by fallible men, and translated by fallible men therefore introducing error. She cited no evidence for the alleged edits. What we do know is that over 26,000 full or partial manuscripts exist of the NT. These range from the 100’s AD on. They have been studied and compared. Amazingly few discrepancies have been found. Less than 1% of the text has been found to at all changed and most of those changes were mere spelling changes. Nothing has been found that calls into question any of the essential teachings of the Bible.
People love to imply the Bible has been changed yet seldom is any evidence cited. For those looking to discredit the Bible, evidence is not needed. They are willing to take anyone’s word that changes have been made. Instead of the burden of proof being on them as it should be, they use silence as their argument. If we can’t prove no changes have been made, they take that as evidence changes have been made. Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. When the Bible is compared to other works of antiquity, the preservation from change is amazing. The people who made copies took great care knowing they were copying the very words of God.
The final comment suggests we have no idea what commands in the Bible are relevant today. This too is false. Much of the OT was written for the nation of Israel. The requirements around which foods to eat, or the sacrificial system, have been done away with. This is clear from a reading of the NT.
What they suggest is that we are free to choose which parts of the Bible to believe in and which to reject. It makes us God deciding what is right and what is wrong. Instead of God revealing His will to us, we are deciding for ourselves what is God’s will. If you are going to reject any of the Bible then we should reject all of it. How can we decide what is correct and what is in error?
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Can our finite minds discern the truth? The evidence is that the Bible was written by men who knew Jesus or close associates of those men. The evidence is that the Bible has not been edited or corrupted. The evidence is that the Bible has changed countless lives and the face of history. Usually those who question the Bible do so not because they have seen evidence suggesting the Bible has been corrupted but rather are looking for reasons to reject it because they don’t like what it says. If they doubt the authenticity of the Bible they can justify and departure from it. They are free to fashion their own beliefs which naturally accommodate their own morality. They set themselves up as God deciding what is right and what is wrong. Why they claim any belief in Jesus, as some do, is illogical. Based on what evidence? The evidence they claim is corrupted? She said she had a relationship with Jesus but not the Bible. How, then, does she know anything of Jesus if not from the Bible?
While attempts have been made to prove the existence of chakras, or energy centers in the body, nothing very concrete has been discovered. It seems to me to be more psychosomatic than physiological and I don’t think the difference matters to most believers in chakras. To them they simply exist. They believe they feel the flow of energy and the concentration of it in these centers. They believe they can feel blocked or unblocked. They don’t need medical science to validate their beliefs. The only ones who seem to care are the few that want some credibility in the eyes of the western establishment.
In my own study, I’ve come to believe what chakra practitioners mean by “energy” is something different than what I mean and what science would describe. As humans, we get chemical energy from the foods we eat. Our bodies convert the food we consume into nutrition that is spread through our blood stream to our tissue and organs and enables us to live and move. That is a form of chemical energy. Our bodies also turn some of this into heat. We call this thermal energy. That is why we are warm and when two bodies huddle they can give off a lot of shared heat. Our nervous system is made up of millions of neurons. Neurons have one or more dendrites, or tentacles, that act as antennae and receive information from other neurons. Within each neuron, chemicals (potassium and sodium) cause a polarity difference which results in an electrical signal moving across the body, or axon, of the neuron. When the electrical signal reaches the end of the neuron, it causes the neuron to release small chemicals called neurotransmitters which cross the synapse to a neighboring neuron where the process repeats. Thus the nervous system is able to send signals throughout the body. Sensory neurons receive information from receptors like the skin, the eyes, the nose, the tongue, etc. as well as from internal organs. Only small amounts of electrical energy can travel from one person to another. While it’s possible to feel a small shock when static current forms between people, these are small quantities of electricity and harmless.
The only conduits of electrical energy in our body are the nervous system. There are no storehouses or repositories of energy other than fat which is a formed of stored food energy. Each neuron contains the chemicals it needs to produce these small charges. To suggest one person can impart energy to another or direct it’s flow is not supported by science. Touching another person may cause a small, temporary static current, it is short-lived and not an ongoing exchange of energy. Humans get energy through the foods we eat. We don’t get it from other people or the sun or the earth, etc. The sun is needed for our food to exist but we don’t absorb energy through the skin. It is chemically produced by nutrition. When we describe feeling someone’s energy, we are really describing the changes in our receptors and how our minds interpret that information but there is no actual flow of energy. Our minds, if so inclined, may interpret it as such but physiologically there is no flow or exchange of energy. We may feel thermal energy or heat. We note the sensation of touch, even subtle changes in the air as someone’s hand gets near us. Yet this is not the same as saying their energy is flowing to us. We transfer energy through movement. When I cock my arm and throw a ball, the potential energy in my muscles is transferred to the ball to make it fly. In massage, muscular pressure can cause heat and movement of another’s muscles. However, that is not a transference of energy but rather the outcome of potential energy being applied. I cannot give you my energy. I can use my energy to move you (say pushing you) but I am not adding energy to your body.
I saw a demonstration at a tantric massage class where the instructor and an assistant lit a light bulb by touching each other in two places. The instructor cited this as evidence that energy can flow between people. If they only touched in one place, the bulb did not light. This experiment did not prove what he implied it did. Energy did in fact flow between them, but only a small amount of static electricity. At any moment, the human body produces the amount of electricity in a 100 watt light bulb. By touching in two places the instructor and his assistant were merely completing a circuit. The energy transference was minor. In his teaching, energy enters the body through transference either by touch or through our heads from the world around us. We are grounded when we have our feet flat on the ground. This instructor even went so far as to say that if you sat cross-legged you were not properly grounded. Your legs should not be crossed. This makes no sense as were energy flowing, as he believes, bends in knees would hardly stop the flow. I think it was said for effect and to make him sound more knowledgeable.
Psychology plays a great role in beliefs such as this. If someone is “trained” to sense energy in others and it’s suggested they will notice concentrations in specific areas, they might falsely interpret minor bits of thermal energy or subtle changes in airflow to indicate the presence of energy. They might say an area feels hot or cold. There could be a myriad of explanations for what they feel including that their minds are making it up. Likewise, the patient might be susceptible to suggestions. If they are told a certain area of their body feels hot, that might trigger their minds to send some nervous response to the area that causes them to feel there is something going on there. To them it is real and trying to suggest otherwise is very difficult.
Aside from the lack of scientific support, my main concern is actually the spiritual underpinnings on which this is built. Depending on who you read, some believe the concept came from ancient Egypt then was passed on to India. Others believe it started in India. There have been many different forms of the concept and many different numbers of chakras suggested. In one article I read said Westerners have completely misunderstood the true origin and meaning of chakras. The author claims that in the original Sanskrit, chakras were meant as objects of meditation and not representations of physical points in the body. (https://hareesh.org/blog/2016/2/5/the-real-story-on-the-chakras).
Originally, chakras were part of a meditative practice around Hindu deities. They have been westernized and repurposed and given a different focus such that what most westerners believe about chakras is quite different than the origins of them that the west claims to follow. It is these religious underpinnings that concern me. As a Christian, I want nothing to do with ancient Hindu scriptures and Hindu deities. I have often found that in the end, the belief in chakras is defended by saying that if you believe they are real and work for you, then they are real. If I believe I can fly and step off a cliff will that belief make me fly? No. I will fall to my death. We don’t create truth by our beliefs. Truth is objective and contradictory truths cannot exist. At least that is how the Bible defines truth. Once you step away from that, then truth is whatever you believe it to be. It is no longer rational or objective and thus contradictory truths can exist. I’ve seen many Christians get pulled off the path to chase after these mystical practices and beliefs. They fail to be discerning and grounded in the truth. They don’t see how they are disobeying and contradicting the Christian faith they claim to hold. They fail to look into the beliefs behind these practices and see no contradiction with their faith. The average Christian fails to get properly grounded in Scripture.
One misunderstanding some people have about Christianity, Judaism, and the Bible is that they are not the oldest religions and others predate them. They will cite some eastern religions as being older. When it comes to ancient religions, we can date their origins by surviving records, secular references, or their own claims as to when they started.
The problem with ancient religions is that they are ancient. Thousands of years ago they did not have computers or even printing presses. They wrote on parchments and other materials that would not last forever. Some faded or fell apart. Some were lost in fires, or attacks. Some were buried over time. Only a fraction of what might have existed survived to our time. This makes precise dating all but impossible.
In the case of the Bible, its story begins with creation itself. Genesis tells us of the creation of the universe and of humanity. God walked in the Garden and talked with Adam and Eve. They were the first believers. God appeared to their children and grandchildren and so on. Eventually the nation of Israel was formed from this line of believers. Moses, wrote the first 5 books of the Bible, before the nation of Israel fully existed. He was given the history by divine inspiration. Since no history predates creation, and since the story of creation is the beginning of the Bible, the Bible and belief in the God of the Bible, predates all manmade religions. While we see Judaism and Christianity as separate religions, the New Testament teaches that Christianity is the completion of Judaism. Judaism was meant to lead to Christianity with the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah long-awaited by the Jews. Christian history begins with Genesis just as Judaism does. Based on that, I would date Christianity and Judaism as the oldest religions on earth.
When people claim these two religions borrowed stories from older religions (like the flood, resurrection, etc) they are not allowing for the possibility that Judaism and Christianity might be older and these other religions borrowed from them. Naturally, some people will debate this but I will never concede the point that any religion predates Judea-Christian history. Besides, being first does not necessarily make you right. When friends have tried to explain certain eastern traditions to me, and I have responded with Scripture, they often say “Well this stuff was around long before the Bible.” While it may have been written before the Bible, that does not mean it occurred before the Bible nor that it’s correct.
Secular scholars date Hinduism (or at least the root of it) as the oldest religion dating from 15 BC to 5 BC. They claim Judaism dates from 9 BC to 5 BC. Some claim Judaism is rooted in Atenism which is an old Egyptian monotheistic religion. The only similarity between Atenism and Judaism is that both were monotheistic. Atenism was based on the Sun god. That Judaism is monotheistic in no way proves it had any connection to Atenism. According to the Bible, belief in a single God goes back to Adam and Eve thousands of years before Atenism. Dating a religion upon the earliest writings or artifacts ignores the fact that so much of antiquity has been lost to the sands of time. Did Adam and Eve write anything down? Did Abraham? We don’t know but nothing has survived to us but that should not be surprising given the amount of time that has passed and the materials they used for writing. Note too that Moses was believed to live around 15 BC thus at the earliest suggested date for the start of Hinduism and Moses is far from the first person mentioned in the Bible.
Ultimately, this is an argument you won’t win as your friend may not accept your statements about the Bible being older. I would rather attempt to get them to admit that what we know is only known from surviving fragments or artifacts. It’s possible there were religions before Hinduism that simply did not survive. Secular science believes life began in Africa requiring many years before any descendants would have made it to the east. Who’s to say they did not have beliefs that predated Hinduism? Perhaps if they will admit we can’t be 100% certain then they will have to admit that you could be right about the Bible.
To many, God and science are like oil and water. They just don’t mix. To many atheist or agnostic scientists, religion has nothing to offer to the explanation of cosmology. They see religious information as mere stories and myths. The answers, they believe, lie in science. I believe they both have their place.
If you drew a big circle on a whiteboard, you could label it “truth” and it would contain all truth, all knowledge. You could then draw a smaller circle inside it and label it “knowable truth.” That is, truth that can be discovered by human effort. How big this circle would be in relation to the larger circle is unknowable. The “truth” circle is known by God. The “knowable truth” circle contains all those things God has made available to man to know. That is where science comes in. Science is a tool to explore the “knowable truth” circle. Its use is limited to that circle. What lies beyond that circle is supernatural to us and by definition outside the purview of science. A strict scientist cannot consider anything supernatural.
It’s like a blind man who discovers the world through touch, taste, and sound. He can feel things, smell them, and taste them. If presented an elephant he would run his hands over it’s skin and feel the size and texture. As he continued to explore, he would discover legs, a trunk, ears, etc. His nose would also pickup the scent of the elephant. He could in this manner learn much about the elephant but without vision he could never know its color and what that elephant “looked” like in his mind, may not be a truly accurate representation of the elephant. He would need sight, in addition to his other senses, to truly know the elephant. Now imagine a world where everyone was born blind. Everything they learned came through the use of those non-visual senses. Overtime they might consider their way of exploration as science and come to believe that over time they could discover all there is to know this way. To someone who had sight, we would recognize that while their methods could indeed teach them much, they could not know everything. If suddenly given sight, they would realize they had only known part of the truth.
God has revealed some “unknowable” things to us through revelation in the Bible. These are things we could never have discovered on our own. When science tries to discover the origins of the universe, it runs into the limit of the knowable. In trying to discover the ultimate origin of the universe, they keep hitting their heads into a brick wall. They are looking for answers they will never find. Their theories are increasingly strained and still leave an unanswerable question. Namely, how did our universe come from nothing? Some have tried to dodge this question by saying time did not exist until the universe came into being thus there is no “before.” Therefore, they reason, it is pointless to consider anything “before” they universe existed. They think this eliminates the search for an answer to where did the universe come from.
No matter how you slice it, in the end, something had to be self-existent and outside of time and space. I believe that something is God. In saying that, I don’t mean “god” as in a higher power or an undefined force. I mean the God of the Bible. The God who revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The God who transcends both time and space and that which lies outside of it. Science might postulate that matter was somehow self-existent and possessed inherent properties that we call the laws of physics. I think if scientists could look outside our circle, they would find God looking back. Fortunately, we don’t have to see outside the circle to know God. He occupies all of both circles and has made Himself known to us.
Although Quantum Physics has been around for over 100 years, it still feels like the “new thing” in physics. If you’re not familiar with the term, it is a branch of physics that describes the world of sub-atomic particles. The great British physicist, John Newton, was the father of what became known as Newtonian Physics. Also called Classic Mechanics, it is the world of macroscopic objects. This is the world and universe that we can see. Planets, stars, giant gas clouds and so on. It is the world of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Special Relativity. Quantum Physics, aka Quantum Mechanics, is the world of objects too small for the unaided human eye to see. It turns out physics in this unseen world works differently than in the macroscopic world. While the world of Newtonian Physics is orderly and predictable, the world of Quantum Physics is unpredictable and illogical.
One outcome of Quantum Physics is the concept of nothing. Imagine an airtight box we suck all the air out of creating a perfect vacuum. What’s then inside the box? Our usual answer would be to say there is nothing inside the box. There is no thing(s) inside the box. It is empty. This is how we classically viewed the vacuum of space. What lies between the earth and the moon? Empty space full of nothing although it’s nonsensical to say something is full of nothing. If I say after a meal, I am full I certainly don’t mean I ate nothing. No, I am full because I ate a lot and filled my stomach. We say the space between the earth and the moon is full of nothing because that space has the property of distance. The moon is 250,000 miles from the earth, so to get there you have to pass through 250,000 miles of a vacuum. If there was nothing there then why would the moon not be right next to the earth? Afterall, there is nothing between us.
Actually, quantum mechanics tells us that the nothing of space has pairs of matter and anti-matter appear and disappearing all the time. Each pair contains an identical amount of matter and anti-matter and within a very small amount of time they collide and cancel each other out. They disappear. Their energy is returned to the nothing. This is happening continuously. So, while the vacuum of space would appear to contain nothing it actually contains something. Just something too small and too short-lived to see.
If I sent you to an empty room in my house and when you returned asked you what was in the room you would say “nothing, it was empty.” Now we both know there was not nothing in the room. How then did you breathe? Ah, there was air in the room. How did you see that the room was empty? Ah, there were particles of light. Even if the room was pitch dark with no light, the air would still be there and your feet would be kicking up unseen dust. We say there was nothing there because there was nothing we could see. The vacuum of space is like that. It appears to contain nothing yet it contains light, and radiation from the sun. What if you could travel to some far location in the universe that had no stars close enough to it that their light had reached that location? It would be pitch dark. No light. A cold, dark vacuum. Even then there is something there. Those pesky particles of matter and anti-matter keep coming and going. That nothing is teeming with activity.
According to quantum physics, every few billion pairs of matter and antimatter would suddenly produce a singleton particle of matter with no antimatter twin. Lacking its antimatter counterpart, that singleton would remain. Over time those singletons would together form amounts of matter from which the things of the universe could be created. Thus, something was created from nothing. Of course, not really from “no thing.” It was those unpaired particles of matter.
Some atheist physicists like the late Stephen Hawking, saw this as an explanation of the creation of the universe “out of nothing.” To him this implied that no “god” was needed. Biblical theology says God created the universe ex nihlo, Latin for “out of nothing.” Yet the Bible and quantum physics are not saying the same thing. The Bible’s nothing is truly “not a thing” whereas quantum physics nothing contains matter and antimatter and an accumulating amount of singleton particles of matter. This begs the question of where did those particles of matter and antimatter come from? How did they get created “out of nothing.” Where does their energy go when destroyed? How is it that occasional singleton particles of matter show up? The answer to the Christian is obvious. “In the beginning, God created…” (Genesis 1:1). What does beginning refer to? It refers to the start of time. Einstein taught us that time requires space. Without space there is no time. Before there was something there was no concept of time. Time did not exist. When God created “in the beginning”, the cosmic clock began ticking. The Bible tells us that to the God, “yesterday, today, and tomorrow” are all the same. In other words, God lives in the eternal now which is another way of saying God’s existence is not bound to a space-time continuum. God is omnipresent and thus is everywhere all at once which includes our universe yet God’s existence does not depend on the universe. God exists independent of the universe. Since God’s existence is not dependent on space, God is not subject to time. To God it is always now. When the Bible uses time-based language, it is for our benefit as we are creatures bound to time and space at least physically. God created our souls to be able to live independent of time and space. The Book of Revelation tells us God will burn up the elements in intense heat and recreate a new universe with a new earth. If God was bound to this universe and if our souls were as well, then we could not survive the complete destruction of this universe.
Modern man sees a conflict between science and religion. Many of the early great minds of science did not see conflict. They understood that science is the method by which man discovers what can be known of God’s creation. God gave us minds capable of great discovery. We can comprehend complex mathematics, physics, art, music, literature… Yet God has not revealed or made possible for us to discover everything. There are somethings knowable only to God. He has revealed some things to us supernaturally like the fact that He is, that He crated the universe. Science is very good at discovering how the universe works and even how it has grown and changed. How stars form and how atoms work. Yet science can only go back so far then hits a dead-end. Science cannot explain where matter came from or how it got the properties it has. That is unknowable except to God. If you picture all truth as a big circle on a whiteboard, you could draw a smaller circle inside of it that represents all knowable truth. That is what man can potentially discover and know although mankind may run out of time before he fills in that circle. What lies outside that circle is all those things known only to God. That is why science will never be able to explain or prove the existence of God. It lacks the tools to do so. As intelligent as man is, our minds cannot comprehend God in all His fulness. There are truths outside our circle that God could not even explain to us as we lack the ability to understand. There are other things He could, and has, told us that we could understand yet would never have discovered it apart from God’s revelation. Maybe in heaven God will expand our minds to understand more than we can now but we will never fully comprehend God because we would need the mind of God to comprehend God and we are not and never will be God’s equal.
Science keeps trying to explain away the need for God. Yet God does not exist because we need His existence to explain our existence. God exists because He is. He would exist even if we didn’t. He does not exist out of our need. He is self-existent. We do need God, but not to explain everything. We need God because He created us and designed us to have fellowship with Him. Our need for God is more like how we need air to breathe or the flower needs sun and water. God is not the product of our mind’s need for answers though that is what many atheists assume. God is the God of nothing, of Quantum and Newtonian Physics. They do not explain Him but can be useful in explaining His creation. The mathematics of physics is mind-boggling. The equations men like Einstein came up with to explain the laws of physics are truly amazing. Very few of us could even begin to understand it much less understand how they came up with it. For thousands of years, mankind has been growing in its knowledge of the universe and how it works. If it takes the smartest of men to begin to describe and define creation, how could creation be the product of random chance? Does it not give evidence to a great Design by a Great Designer? Did not God give men like Einstein a mind to understand such things? Creation is not by chance. Chance cannot create anything. Chance is an expression of probability. Chance is not a force that can create. We are not here by chance nor did the universe come into being by chance. The fundamental truth is contained in these four words, “In the beginning, God…”
What concerns me is the degree to which American Christians have become involved in politics and in so doing are compromising their faith to back the “lesser of two evils.” In the NT, we see no mention of politics whatsoever except the command to “obey the governing authorities.” When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus into either supporting Rome or disobeying Rome, He turned their question back on them telling them to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Israel, at the time of Jesus and the Apostles, was a Roman province under the rule of a Roman governor and the Roman army. Israel’s laws were pre-empted by Roman law. Despite Roman injustice, neither Jesus nor the Apostles spoke out against Roman rule. While Paul made many missionary journeys and even spent time under house arrest in Rome, his message never turned political. The focus of Jesus and the Apostles was to spread the Good News. Physical freedom meant nothing if one were in slavery to sin.
Yet in our time American Christians have become obsessed with politics. We put more time and energy into politics than we do into evangelism. We think that by involving ourselves in politics we can slow the decay of society and maybe even bring about revival rather than realizing this world is not our home and our job is to preach the Gospel no matter the times in which we live. Surely, we know we can’t legislate morality or salvation. We have become mired in America’s two-party system equating Republicanism with Christianity and the Democratic Party with secular humanism. The reality is that secular humanism has infected both parties and there is no such thing as a Christian party. While the Republican Party is pro-life in its platform, many other policies of the party put financial gain as the highest good despite the Bible’s teaching that money is the root of all sorts of evil. We bend over backwards to excuse the many sins of President Trump believing he is a “baby Christian” and thus we must not expect him to be perfect. Yet the free pass we give to his behavior and lying is making Christians look hypocritical to the world. When we fail to exhort and admonish the President we fail to live up to what the Scriptures teach us. We are not going to our brother in sin and calling him to repentance. We assume his spiritual advisors are taking care of such things despite the lack of evidence of change. We think because Trump is pro-life and pro-Christian everything else, he does can be excused.
No president will ever be perfect. We can’t expect Trump to be. That is not a fair standard but remaining silent on his sins is also not acceptable for those sins committed in the public realm as he executes his office. His private sins are another matter. If as president, he lies, he breaks the law, he is a poor witness, then an unqualified endorsement does not seem proper to me even if the alternative is an even worse candidate. Our witness demands we be consistent. If we are going to attack another candidate for unchristian views, we cannot turn a blind eye to president Trump.
When I discuss president Trump with fellow Christians, I often encounter a lot of white-washing of his conduct. Rather than truly analyzing his actions, I too often hear back the press briefing talking points. I’m not encountering much critical thinking.
I know to some Christians, questioning Trump is near heresy. I’m treated as if questioning Trump is “going over to the enemy.” It’s back to the binary politics we’ve accepted in this country. I feel we have to be consistent. We need to fight corruption and lying and not give free passes to public officials even if they are Christians. Otherwise we are perceived by the world as being just as corrupt.
The government is not our savior. We need to reach individual hearts not political parties. A Christian president is not going to fix this broken land. It is well and good to promote Christian values and vote for good candidates but our hope is in Christ, not politicians.
Non-Christians often quote Scripture to make a point but in doing so they are guilty of proof texting. What is proof texting? It is when a single verse is pulled from the Bible in support of a particular belief or doctrine. The problem is that you cannot properly understand the Bible by pulling verses out of their context in a stand-alone fashion. Verses must be understood in their Biblical context understanding who wrote it, what historic or grammatical understanding is involved, what the rest of Scripture have to say on the subject, etc. Many verses in the Bible can be made to say all kinds of things if not understood in their proper context. Sometimes people are quoted “out of context” and when accused of saying something offensive, will protest that their words were taken out of context. We all understand that context is key to understanding words. Depending on the context, the same words can mean different, sometimes even contradictory things.
I recently ran across an example of this in a blog. It was a counseling blog and followed a question/answer format. The question came from a woman who was wrestling over feelings of shame over her sexual feelings. She was in her 30’s and was raised in a religious household and felt the teachings of her parents have led to this sense of shame.
In her response, the licensed psychotherapist responded to the writer having called herself a “child of God.” She stated that sex and sexuality are integral and an intimate part of a person’s very being and is the very opposite of shame. She then quoted Ephesians 5:29 (which she misattributed to Ephesians 5:20). She wrote:
You write that you are a “child of God.” I don’t know how you express your spirituality, but I wonder if you have come across this quotation from Ephesians 5:20: “For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church.” In short, take care of yourself, body and soul, with complete love. (Somerstein, n.d.)
She then asked the writer a rhetorical question regarding her self-care and suggested counseling to deal with her negative emotions. I cite this as an example of proof texting because in context the verse does not teach anything about loving yourself. When you read the passage, the Apostle Paul was giving teaching on marriage. He specifically was addressing husbands and instructing them to love their wives like they love their own bodies. He adds that “no one has ever hated his own body.” In other words, Paul assumes we all love ourselves and take care of ourselves and so as a husband loves his own body, so should he love his wife. As he would nourish and cherish his own body, he should nourish and cherish his wife. Paul gives and even greater example, Jesus’ love for the church. As Jesus loves the church, so a husband should love his wife.
The psychotherapist is implying the verse teaches that the Bible teaches that we are to love and care for our own bodies and that since (in her opinion) expressing your sexuality is a loving thing, the Bible therefore would encourage such thoughts and not be a source of shame.
The verse actually assumes we love our own bodies. It also gives no teaching on what proper self-love entails. It is also not at all given in the context of sexuality and its context is marriage which is not the state the writer was in. What the Bible teaches on self-love and sexuality are found in other passages. Using this verse as a proof text for what the Bible teaches about self-love and sexual shame is totally taking the verse out of context. To conclude it teaches you should “take care of yourself, body and soul, with complete love” is reading a meaning into the passage that it’s author never intended. Theologically we call that isogesis (reading into). Proper understanding of the Bible comes from exegesis where you read the meaning from the text taking into consideration the context, the grammar, the history, etc.
While the earliest comments left on the article date back to late 2016, not a single commenter pointed out the psychotherapist referenced the wrong verse leading me to conclude none of them looked up and read that verse for themselves. One commenter called it a “beautiful verse” but no doubt took it with the meaning the psychotherapist gave it.
Proof texting happens all the time. Often secular writers employ it to try and suggest the Bible teaches something different than what Christians take it to teach. In many cases I suspect they got the verse from another’s writings and did not read it for themselves. One person’s proof texting gets multiplied many times over each reuse assuming they understand the verse. Sadly, the recipients of this proof texting never look up such verses for themselves and thus continue propagating the misrepresentation.
We will never be able to prevent the use of proof texting. Sometimes it is intentional but often the result of sloppy research. The author has a belief or bias and thinks they see a Bible verse that supports that belief or bias and builds an argument around it. Satisfied they have the proper understanding; they never bother to read the verse in context for themselves. All we can do in such cases is to gently correct and point out the misuse of the verse.
Non-Christians often make assumptions about what Christians believe or what the Bible teaches. In doing so they are often guilty of proof texting.
One of the greatest passages in Scripture concerning the End of Times (or the End Times) is found in Mathew 24. In this passage, Jesus responds to a question asked in private by His disciples. Before answering, he moves them to the Mount of Olives and thus His answer has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse.
Just before this, as recorded in Mathew 24, Jesus is speaking about the End of Times which prompts His disciples to ask him:
24 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
Before we can examine Jesus’ answer, we first need to understand the Jewish, Old Testament expectations regarding the coming of the Messiah. To the Jewish minds of the time, they expected that when their Messiah came, He would at that time overcome His enemies, free the Jews, and set up His kingdom on earth. Despite the OT prophesizing two comings of the Messiah, once to die and resurrect and once to bring about the End of the Times, they saw those events as all happening in a short period of time with no major interlude. The did not understand the prophecies about the church age nor the Rapture. They only understood one event left to happen. That was the mindset of the disciples.
We know, with the further clarification of the NT, that Jesus is going to return two more times. First, He will return secretly in an event we call the Rapture. Secret in the sense that while the whole world will see the effects of the Rapture, they won’t see Jesus. He will await His children in the clouds and take them to heaven leaving those on earth confused and bewildered wondering how so many people suddenly disappeared. The Rapture is not what Scripture calls the Second Coming.
The Second Coming occurs at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period. This is when Christ returns triumphantly and tramples His enemies and sets up His Millennial Kingdom. This is the coming of the Messiah the Jews expected but without understanding of the Rapture and the Tribulation. If Jesus was the Messiah, then they expected Him to overthrown the Romans and all Israel’s enemies and reign from Jerusalem. It was with this expectation that the disciples asked Jesus what would be the signs of His Second Coming.
That the Messiah first had to suffer and die at the hands of sinners, was foretold by the OT prophets but was missed by the Jews. They could not imagine their Messiah being killed by the like of Roman soldiers. They did not understand that their sacrifices in the Temple could never pay the price for their sin. A perfect sacrifice had to be made and only the Messiah, the Son of God, could make it. They were also blinded by their pride. They were God’s people! The nation of Israel. God’s elect. They looked down upon all others as Gentiles who had no part in the plans of the Messiah. Again, the OT foretold that God had other people who He would also call His children and that there would be a Church Age in which God gathered His children from among the Gentiles and some Jews. The height of the Jews expectations for Jesus occurred during His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem just one week before His death. They lined the roads and threw down their cloaks and palm branches celebrating their Messiah. When Jesus did not, at that time overcome Israel’s enemies, they bitterly rejected Jesus as just another false Messiah. A pretender who must be in league with Satan to have performed the miracles He did. As great as their joy had been in seeing Him as their Messiah, so great was their subsequent hatred for Him when He did not fulfill their expectations.
If we were to look at a timeline it might look like this:
3 BC 30 AD Rapture Tribulation Second Coming Mill. Kingdom New HE
3 BC – the birth of Christ. We think 0 AD, but due to flaws in the calendars back then it was likely more like 3 BC
30 AD – death of Jesus
X – where we are now prophetically though not implying, we are half way to the Rapture
Rapture – when Jesus comes secretly for His church
Tribulation – a 7-year period of events following the Rapture and leading up to the Second Coming
Mill. Kingdom – a 1000-year reign of Christ on earth known as the Millennial Kingdom
New HE – the new heavens and the new earth after God destroys the old in intense heat
NOTE: The distances on the timeline are not to scale.
On our timeline, the events described in the Olivet Discourse occur during the 7-year Tribulation period. There are parallel events found in Revelation that go into more details about the events of the Tribulation.
One thing that has been greatly misunderstood is Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 24:32-35:
32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that [e]it is near—at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
Jesus made clear to His disciples that “no one knows the hour or the day (Matthew 24:35)” of His Second coming. In these verses Jesus says that we can see the signs of His return approaching even though we won’t know the hour or the day.
I believe these verses are misunderstood because many Christians think Jesus is talking about the Rapture here or the Rapture and all that follows. I don’t believe that is the case. The wars, the rumors of war, the famines and earthquakes, are all things taking place during the Tribulation. These are not events occurring before the Rapture. I have seen lists Christians have created showing how the number of major earthquakes per year has been on the rise. The same with famines and they see these as signs that the Lord’s return is approaching. While there have always been earthquakes, famines, and wars, Jesus is talking about a very specific set of those events taking place in a very specific context.
For one thing, mankind has only been keeping records of these things for a couple of hundred years. We have no idea how these events over the past two hundred years compares to the preceding thousands of years. For all we know, history might be full of periods of increase followed by periods of decrease. We cannot assume that any uptick in modern times is unprecedented. Secondly, we don’t know to what degree these things will increase leading up to the Lord’s Second Coming. For all we know, what Jesus is describing is daily major earthquakes in different parts of the world. We are seeing nothing like that today.
Jesus is describing cataclysmic events unparalleled in human history. Apocalyptic events. The recent upward trend in earthquakes we are seeing are nowhere near that scale.
Jesus describes these events like birth pangs (Matthew 24:8). A woman normally does not know when labor is going to begin. If her water breaks or labor is induced, she will have some idea. As she approaches her due date, she knows it will happen soon but she does not know the hour or the day. One minute she might feel fine and the next contractions have started. Once started they can progress steadily, start and stop, or progress rapidly. At some point they progress rapidly culminating in the birth of the baby. Jesus’ analogy of these apocalyptic events to a woman’s labor is describing the rapid progression that immediately precedes birth. Once those contractions start, a woman knows the time is short. So it will be during the Tribulation. The wars and famines and earthquakes will come on suddenly and fearfully. The inhabitants of the earth will feel like the earth is being rent in two under them. The earth will seem to be rapidly dying in a cataclysmic way. That is a level of natural disasters humanity has never seen.
By contrast, Scripture describes the Rapture peacefully.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep [k]in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [l]and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a [m]shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive [n]and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Theologians hold to the doctrine of Imminence. This means that there remains NO events that need to take place before the Rapture. Christ could come at any moment. There does not need to be an increase in earthquakes or famines or civil unrest. Life on earth can appear to be perfectly normal. Sometimes contemporary Christians make assumptions based on technological progress. I can recall hearing “experts” talk about the ability to put electric chips in people over 30 years ago. At that time, many believers were convinced a microchip would be the Mark of the Beast described in Revelation. It seemed like a natural fit. If such technology exists, they reason, it’s use as the Mark of the Beast must be fast approaching and before that can occur, the Rapture must occur. According to the doctrine of Imminency, Christ’s return for the Rapture could have taken place anytime from 33 AD to today. Microchips have existed for less than a century. The Rapture has not been waiting until technology invents a way to make distributing and recognizing the Mark an easy thing. Scripture does not tell us what form the mark will take. Just something on the forehead or back of the hand. That could just as easily be a tattoo as a microchip. For us to think the Rapture must be approaching because we have implantable microchips, or microdots, and a global pandemic to provide a perfect opportunity to distribute the Mark, does not mean the Rapture is approaching! The conditions for the inauguration of the Mark of the Beast have existed since 33 AD. Scripture also never teaches that technology will be used or that the first time such technology exists it will be used. Tattoos could have been used as the Mark of the Beast and tattoos have been around for thousands of years. The fact that we have such technology and have a world-wide pandemic tells us absolutely nothing about the timing of the Rapture. That is man reading things into Scripture and making assumptions that cannot be supported from the text.
Remember too that the “signs” of the season Jesus spoke of only apply to His Second Coming NOT to the Rapture. There are no signs required before the Rapture can occur. God does not require a gradual increase in earthquakes to then really cause terror and panic. Like the contractions of labor, they can come on in a hurry when the time appointed for them is reached. In the beginning of the Tribulation, the world will think their problems have been solved. They will look to the Antichrist as a savior. They will rejoice in peace and safety. It is only after the Abomination of Desolation occurs that the Antichrist shows his true colors and the world suddenly realizes it is in the grip of a Satanic leader.
What might lead the world to look to the Antichrist to begin with? We aren’t told except that he will initially appear to be a dynamic world leader who can unite humanity and solve the world’s problems. With the church having been raptured and the restraint of the Holy Spirit removed, the Antichrist will be able to easily deceive the world. While speculation on my part, I can envision that a world-wide Rapture would throw the world into chaos. Imagine millions (maybe a billion or more) people suddenly and for no obvious reason disappearing. Imagine cars crashing without drivers, planes suddenly without pilots, teachers, bankers, and all manner of humanity gone in an instant. That would be more than enough to throw the world into overnight panic and bewilderment. What just happened??? Where did these people go? Was this an alien abduction or some secret world-wide government kidnapping? How could people just disappear into thin air? No arrests or rounding up of people. Just vanishing. People will be in shock and panic. What better circumstances for a charismatic world leader who has the answers? What bigger crisis could there be from which the world will willingly submit to such a man’s leadership. It’s not going to be just explaining what happened but replacing or reorganizing society to do without the leadership and efforts of so many of the earth’s citizens.
In my opinion, this misunderstanding of the unfolding of the End Times has led to endless speculation by many attempting to fit together world events like pieces in a puzzle thinking they can anticipate the Rapture. We can’t. The signs of the season, so to speak, only apply to the Second Coming. Some will say that it’s important for us to know so we can warn others before it’s too late. Has not that been our job since Jesus gave the Great Commission before He returned to heaven? Since the Rapture could have occurred any time after that, the concern that time is running out has always been there or should have been. Why is it suddenly important to think you know the Rapture is approaching? The church, the body of Christ, should always be preaching the Good News and warning the world that the time of judgment is approaching. Not only might the Rapture happen tonight but you could have a heart attack or an aneurism and die tonight. The best time to believe is always now! We are not promised tomorrow. We don’t need to see the “signs of the season” with respect to the Rapture for us to feel a sense of urgency as the people we are witnessing to could have their opportunity ended at any moment. Those signs were given of Christ’s Second Coming which will occur after the Rapture. Scripture teaches that there will be believers saved during the Tribulation. The descriptions of those events are given for their encouragement not ours. We won’t be here.
Rather than scouring current world events to try and fit more pieces into the puzzle, we should be doing God’s work and fulfilling the Great Commission. The world needs Christ and without Him our warnings of the End approaching will fall on deaf ears. You might suppose that while those words won’t be headed now, they might come back to them later after they are saved. Perhaps. Trust God to encourage and enlighten them after they believe should they believe after the Rapture. God knows how to keep His own. If you believe as I do that you cannot lose your salvation (providing you truly have it) then no post-Rapture saint is going to lose their salvation if they don’t know everything there is to know about the events of the Tribulation. God will keep them. Our job today is to bear witness to them and pray for them asking God to add them to His Kingdom. We can get so caught up in speculations about the fulfillment of prophecy. It is of little profit.
We tend to treat the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the Second Coming of the Lord as one blob. Granted, they all happen over a 7-year period so time-wise they are closely related however if you are a saint today your vision of prophecy approaching may not extend beyond the Rapture. The rest of the picture won’t be in view until after the Rapture occurs in which case you will be watching events unfold from heaven. Those alive but unbelieving before the Rapture (but who will live past it) wont’ comprehend these events or put stock in them. Our fixation on the events of the Tribulation and the Second Coming seems misplaced. Not that God would have us be ignorant of them but I don’t see evidence of the Apostle’s spending much time warning non-believers about the events of the Tribulation. Their focus was not on politics or End Times prophecy but simply the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There is a tendency as humans to want to feel that we must do something to secure our salvation. God may have done the lion’s share of the work, but we have to do our part and without our part salvation would not have been possible. This enables us to pat ourselves on the back and take some credit. We, in partnership with God, earned our salvation and became righteous.
Is this what the Bible teaches? If we contributed in any way to our salvation then we first must have sought God. If you don’t seek God how can you know God and know what to do to be saved? Yet the Bible says:
“There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:11)
Well that doesn’t sound very good but maybe that was part of God’s contribution. Surely our good works counted for something, right? That must have been our part. I mean, we had to believe and we’re not all bad so surely the good in our life must count for something in God’s eyes? The Bible says salvation is:
“not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:9)
“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
What? Are you telling me God did it all and I had no part?
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)
You see, man has two problems. The first is that God hates sin. God cannot sin and will not allow sin to dwell in His presence. Why is that a problem? Because we are sinners! We can’t go one day without sinning much less a lifetime. Well, what if we don’t sin too much? First, if we could see our lives through God’s eyes, we would realize we sin a LOT more than we think. Remember, sins are not just things you do or say but includes your thoughts, your motives, your desires. God can see all that. How many sins does it take to be a sinner? ONE. That’s it, just one. Raise your hand if you have never sinned? No hands. Didn’t think so. So, by definition you ARE A SINNER. What did we say about God and sin? He hates it and won’t allow it to dwell in His presence.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Is God going to be in heaven? I know, dumb question. So, if God hates sin, and God won’t allow sin in His presence, and God is in heaven, how can we, sinners, go to heaven? Well that’s only in God’s presence. God must have a fancy throne room in a fancy building in heaven and so long as we don’t go in there, we are free to enjoy the rest of heaven. Oh really? Does God have a body? No. Jesus does but not God the Father, not the Holy Spirit. Can God be contained in just one location? No. God is omnipresent which means He is everywhere all at once. There is no place you can go where God is not. Since God is everywhere at all times, I think that includes heaven! So, no sin in heaven.
“Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the LORD. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:24)
Well I can’t live a perfect life, and I have sinned, so I guess I can’t go to heaven? You can! Because
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
You see when Jesus went to the cross, for a moment the sin of all the world for all time was put on Him. Even though Jesus had never sinned, He suddenly became sin. But Jesus was righteous. Jesus had never sinned. Jesus was the Son of God. His blood is sufficient to wash away all our sins. Just one drop. God demanded the death of the sinner. Look back at Romans 6:23 I quoted earlier. What are the wages of sin? Death! Are wages gifts? No. You earn your wages. They are due you. You have sinned against God and you have earned the wages of death. Not physical death, though that will happen, by spiritual death which means eternal separation from God!
Jesus took our place and He died for us. God’s justice was satisfied. The sin problem was dealt with. It was literally nailed to the cross. That’s why Jesus went to the cross. He went there to take on our sin and die for it. It’s like you committed a capital offense, were found guilty, and sentenced to death but then Jesus came and sat in that electric chair for you. Because He died, you don’t have to. Jesus gave His life for yours. It was a free gift.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)
We call that mercy which means unmerited favor. Unmerited means you didn’t do anything to deserve it. Jesus didn’t die for your sins because you’re a nice guy and He felt sorry for you. No, there was nothing special about you that caused Jesus to die for you. He did it out of love and now is offering you the free gift of His death and His blood to pay the penalty for your sins and to wash them away in His blood. It’s a gift. Can you earn a gift? No. If you earn it then it’s not a gift. Gifts are freely given by the giver. Don’t let our modern holiday and birthday gifting taint your view of gifts. You might give a gift in certain circumstances because you feel it’s expected. You would rather not give it but you feel you have no choice. We might call that a gift but if you feel obligated to give it then it’s not a gift. Not really. True gifts are given because YOU want to give them. You don’t have to, you’re not obligated to, you simply want to. Jesus wants to give you His gift. He loves you. He really wants you to have it. To get a gift though you have to receive it. The gift is not yours until you receive it. How do you receive Jesus’ gift then? We’ll get to that.
You said there were two problems? What’s the other one? Glad you asked. God has another requirement to enter heaven. It’s not enough that you have no sin. You have to also be perfectly righteous. Ah, that’s where our good works come in right? Wrong. You cannot do enough good works to be perfectly righteous. Plus, do you think a sinner is perfectly righteous? Well maybe once God washes us in the blood of Christ, and removes all our sin, then we are perfectly righteous? Nope. That’s kind of like someone paying off all your bills and so you owe no one anything but you have zero dollars in your bank account. Do you get a perfect credit score of 800 if you have zero dollars but no debt? No. Even if after you are saved, you go on to do lots of good works through the Holy Spirit you still haven’t done enough to be perfectly righteous. Well then, it’s impossible!
Every heard of imputation? Impu-what? Imputation. No. Fancy word but to have something imputed to you means to have something not of you credited to you. It’s like having that zero-bank account and less than 800 credit and someone with a perfect credit score gives that score to you and the credit bureaus now view you as having a perfect credit rating. You didn’t earn that credit score. You did absolutely nothing to get it. That’s imputation. When it comes to salvation, God takes Christ’s (Jesus’) perfect righteousness and imputes it (credits it) to us. Now in God’s eyes we are perfectly righteous. We weren’t but we were made righteous by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2nd Corinthians 5:21)
So, if we except Jesus’ gift we can have our sins forgiven and washed away? Yes. Good news. What? Jesus really has two gifts for you. The first is His shed blood and death for you. The second is the imputation of His righteousness. So use the money analogy, you started out in terrible debt and facing a death sentence. Jesus came along and paid off your debts and took your place on the electric chair and died for you. You are so thankful because you know you were in terrible debt and that was your own fault. You also know you deserved to die. All you had to do was say yes and all this happened for you!
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
That’s probably the best-known verse in the Bible. Ever see the guy in the background at football games or other TV events and he’s holding a sign that says “John 3:16?” This is the verse. What did God do according to this verse? He gave his only begotten Son (Jesus). Note God gave us Jesus. That’s a gift. Why did God offer us this gift? Because “God so loved the world.” God did it out of love. How do we receive the gift? “whoever believes in Him.” You have to believe. Is believing a work? No. It takes place in your mind and in your soul. What results from the gift? “[you] shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God offers you a gift out of love. The gift is His Son Jesus who died for your sins and offers you His righteousness. If you believe, you are no longer deserving death and God gives you eternal life!
What’s the catch? I mean, this sounds too good to be true and usually things that are too good to be true come with a catch so what’s the catch? There’s no catch. No hidden clauses. However, in accepting these gifts you have to acknowledge the giver of the gift. Jesus isn’t just some guy. He’s God. He’s sinless and perfectly righteous. He created time and space and everything in it. He is Lord. He is above all kings, all rulers, all countries, all armies, all royalty. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. You have to know that and believe that. You can’t just say Jesus was a good man, or a prophet, or a guru, or some great philosopher or teacher. If Jesus were any of those things or all of those things that still wouldn’t have made Him perfectly righteous and no amount of His blood could have washed away your sins. It’s because He is God that He is perfectly righteous because only God can be perfectly righteous. It’s because He is God that His death could satisfy God perfect justice. We sinned against God and it’s God we have to answer to and our own death would not be enough to pay the price for our sins. Only Jesus’ death could do that. If you believe Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords then what should you do? What did regular people always do in the presence of their king? They got down on their knees and prostrated themselves before their king. They also pledged their allegiance to him and promised to do all he commanded. In return he protected them and provided for them. We don’t bow to Jesus to earn salvation. We bow in recognition of who He is. We humble ourselves and bow before our God and Savior.
If you have any other concept of who Jesus is then believing in that Jesus will not save you. There are a lot of counterfeit Jesus’ out there and lots of groups who claim they’ve got the real Jesus or they claim it’s doesn’t matter who or what you believe in just that you believe. They are wrong. You have to bow your knee and accept the free gift from the one and only true Son of God. He is the only one who can save you. You don’t need to know everything about Him when you ask for His forgiveness. You just need to acknowledge He is God. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and that your sinned against Him and need His forgiveness and His righteousness. Do that and He will give you His gifts and welcome you into His family.
How can you know more about Jesus? Read his book. It’s called the Bible and is the number one best seller of all time even today. He’ll help you to understand it too even though it’s not hard to understand. He will give you the Holy Spirit to live inside you and guide you. He will always be with you. Don’t buy the lie that God has other books. Just the Bible.
Jesus did it all and He offers all of us the free gift of salvation. Don’t make the mistake though of thinking your earned it nor the mistake of thinking you have to add to it. You can’t accept His gift and think you earned it at the same time. You have to acknowledge that you sinned and became unrighteous and that you could not save yourself or contribute anything to your salvation. It’s all Him. Our pride might not like that. We want to think we had some part to play. If we think that then we have no idea how bad our sin is and how useless we are in contributing to our salvation. You have to come to Jesus humbly acknowledging that your only hope for salvation is found in His death and His righteousness. If you believe it was me + Jesus, then you got the wrong gospel and you have not been forgiven. It’s not me plus Jesus. It’s just Jesus.
Once we’ve been forgiven then we begin a new life. Now we have the Holy Spirit of God within us. When we obey God and do good works, it’s not to earn our salvation or maintain it. Jesus did it all. It’s done. Past tense. We do good works now because we love God and want to do His will.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Notice we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus. Who did the work? Not us. God did it. What did he also do? He created good works for us, beforehand, so that we would walk in them. God has big plans for you. We aren’t doing good works to get right with God. We are doing good works to please God, to obey Him, and because we love Him.
One more thing. Ever heard of an “Indian giver?” Thankfully that saying is out of style. It means someone who gives you a gift and then changes his mind and wants it back. That’s not what the Indians did. The term came from a cultural misunderstanding in the 1700’s. In Indian culture when a gift was given, something of equal value was expected back. If you did not want to give something back then the Indian might be offended and take his gift back. Hence the term.
We already established that you didn’t do anything to earn your salvation and that you didn’t do anything to receive except to believe. We also learned that God offered us salvation out of love. God doesn’t care if you’re wealthy or poor, young or old, have light skin, dark skin, or any other shade of skin, if you’re from America or Russia, you’re a man or a woman. God’s gift is for everyone. God does not play favorites. Once you receive God’s gift, you have eternal life. You can’t lose it, have it taken away from you, or stolen from God.
“and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28)
Some people teach that once you are saved you have to keep doing good works or you could lose your salvation. That’s not what the Bible teaches. We read the verse earlier that God prepared “beforehand” good works for us to do. He prepared these for us to do after we received His gift of salvation. We just read that we can’t lose our salvation so there is nothing more we need to do after receiving God’s gift. These people think that you have to keep your salvation by adding good works. They get this idea from something James wrote:
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14)
If you read what James wrote, all of it, you see he’s trying to make a point here. An important point. Anyone can go around claiming to be a Christian; claiming to have saving faith. We have some expressions, talk is cheap. The proof is in the pudding. Put your money where your mouth is. Actions speak louder than words. We all know what those expressions mean. Walk your talk.
What did Ephesians 2:10 said God did? It said he prepared good works for us to do. Salvation is about more than making us right with God. God loves you so much that He wants you to be like Jesus. He gives you the Holy Spirit to aid you in living your new life of faith. Those good works you do, that God prepared beforehand, that are the “proof in the pudding.” They are the evidence of the salvation you already possess. That’s what James was arguing. If you say your saved and have faith but your life is not showing any evidence of it, then maybe your faith was not true faith. Maybe you didn’t really mean it. Maybe you talked yourself into saying the words but in your heart they were not true. If that’s your “faith” then that faith cannot save you. You are saved by faith alone but your faith does not leave you alone. You change. God begins working on you. Some things might change quickly while other things might change more gradually. You don’t become perfect. Not this side of heaven. We still have that old habit of sin hanging around that we have to resist. But you do change. If you live a long life after your claim faith and nothing ever changes, then you ought to question if your faith was genuine.
The Apostle Paul, in writing to the believers at the church in Corinth, said:
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” (2nd Corinthians 13:5)
Paul was warning them against complacency and false faith. It is always a good thing to take a good hard look at your life and ask yourself the hard questions. If you see some answers you don’t like, then you know what to work on. A changed life and evidence of a relationship with Jesus is a good test. Was your salvation a one-time event in your life and after that you just went back to your old life and never spent time with God? You never changed, you never sought God in prayer, you never read His Word (the Bible), you never sought the company of other believers. That’s what Paul means by testing. He’s not saying you can lose your salvation but maybe you’ve stopped walking in those good works or maybe you never had saving faith.
So, no you don’t need good works to be saved. You just need faith. That faith is a seed from which a new life will sprout and grow and produce good fruit. That is the outworking and evidence of our faith.
If you have never asked God’s forgiveness, do so now. Ask Jesus to forgive you. Ask for His blood to wash away your sins and His righteousness to be imputed to you. Tell Him He’s your Lord and you will strive, with His assistance, to lead a fruitful life out of love and obedience to Him. There are no special words. You don’t have to be in a church when you pray this prayer. Prayer is just talking to God. He can hear you. No matter where you are. He loves you no matter what you’ve done. More than you know. He will make you beautiful in His eyes. No matter who you are, what you’ve done He loves you. You think God could never love you because you’ve done so many bad things? You’re wrong. God’s love is unconditional. He loves you despite who you are and what you’ve done. He has seen it all. No one is beyond God’s reach. You can’t be too bad for God. Don’t believe Satan’s lie that you’ve cross a line, are too far gone, and God could never forgive you. God can and will even when you are not ready to forgive yourself. Maybe you’ve never experienced that kind of love and forgiveness and it’s totally foreign to you. That’s ok. God understands. Trust Him. I promise you will never regret it.
The Doctrine of Imminency The return of Christ has been expected by the Church since the time of Christ. This expectation that His return could happen at any time with no preconditions is known as the Doctrine of Imminency. The Church is told to “watch” and to “look” for his return. In the description of the Rapture of the Church, we see believers going about their daily lives working in the fields and doing other normal activities. Suddenly some are taken while others are left behind. To me this suggests they were not aware the Lord was about to return (other than knowing it could happen at any time. If any of the events described as occurring in the Tribulation had to occur before the Rapture, then Christ’s return would not be imminent. We would have recognizable events we would expect to see first. This contradicts all the Scriptures that depict His return as imminent and without warning.
The Church in the Tribulation? In John 14:1-3, in connection with the promise of Christ, “I will come again,” the purpose of His coming is revealed to be to take believers to “my Father’s house,” by which term He describes heaven. After He meets the church in the air, He will take them to the place prepared. In contrast, at His coming to establish the millennial kingdom, all believers remain in the earthly scene. In 1 Thessalonians 5:4-10, believers are assured that they are children of light, not children of darkness. They are comforted with the promise that the day of wrath will not overtake them as a thief, as it will the world. They are promised, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9). In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 our hope is stated: “To wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” If believers are delivered “from the wrath to come,” why inflict upon them a day of wrath designed for the ungodly? Are not believers assured: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9)? In Revelation 3:10 the godly church at Philadelphia is promised: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” In a word, they are promised that they will be kept “from” the period of tribulation ahead. That is different from being kept “through” this time. (https://bible.org/seriespage/6-will-church-go-through-tribulation)
We see in Scripture two programs of God. First, God established the nation of Israel and revealed Himself to them. There were many faithful Jews who responded to God’s revelation and faith in the future-coming Messiah. Not all did, however. Many strayed and by the time of Christ’s first coming faith among the Jews was waning. They thought themselves righteous by virtue of lineage and thinking they were keeping the law. While much of Jesus’ ministry was to Jews, not all of it was. He spoke of “other children” and in the Book of Acts we see the Gospel going to the Gentiles which had been God’s plan all along. While some Jews came to accept Jesus as their Messiah, the majority have not. In 70 A.D. Roman soldiers sacked the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple putting to an end the sacrificial system of Judaism. Jesus’ death on the cross had already rendered that system of no further value. It was to point to the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus. Once Jesus died, there was no longer a need to sacrifice in the Temple (see Hebrews 10.) Most of the Jews rejected Jesus and continued in their useless ceremonies until the Romans destroyed their Temple and dispersed them.
In the over 2000 years that have followed, we have been in the Church age where God’s focus has turned to the Church though He has not forgotten Israel. The Church age will culminate with the return of Christ and the Rapture where His church will join Him in heaven to dwell with Him forever. That is not the end though. As God always saved a faithful remnant of Jews in the OT, He will also save a remnant during The Tribulation. God’s gaze now returns to Israel and the fulfillment of His plan for them. Some Jews and some Gentiles will come to believe during the Tribulation. They are who are in view in Revelation 13:7. They will suffer for their faith but spend eternity with God. At the end of the seven year Tribulation, Christ will return again with His angels and end the reign of the Antichrist and bound up Satan and the demons and the 1000 year Millennial Kingdom will begin.