Timeline of Roman Catholic Doctrines in Church History
The Roman Catholic faith has been an evolution over many centuries. Catholics teach their faith was handed down from the Apostles and they only formally established these doctrines as the need arose yet a careful study of the writings of the church show that most of these doctrines were not held by the early church and were later additions. Events in red boldface are those pertaining to doctrine. The rest are historical events not directly related to RC doctrine.
|250 BC||OT canon is universally accepted|
|33-100 AD||Apostolic age|
|60 AD||Paul returns to Rome|
|~68 AD||Paul dies; Peter dies around the same time|
|95 AD||Clement of Rome mentions at least 8 NT books|
|100-325 AD||Ante Nicene period (separation of Christianity from Judaism and growth)|
|108 AD||Polycarp, acknowledged 15 books|
|115 AD||Ignatius of Antioch acknowledges about seven NT books|
|170 AD||Muratorian Canon[BV1] includes all of the NT books except Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and 3 John|
|185 AD||Irenaeus mentions 21 books|
|170-235 AD||Hippolytus recognizes 22 books|
|200 AD||Under Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, a basic version of Catholic structure was installed with Roman direction|
|300 AD||Prayers for the dead began|
|313 AD||Emperor Constantine legalizes Christianity and moves the Roman capital to Constantinople|
|325 AD||The First Council of Nicea, called by Constantine, attempted to structure church leadership around a model similar to that of the Roman system and formalized some key articles|
|363 AD||Council of Laodicea states that only the OT books (along with one book of the Apocrypha[BV2] ) and 26 books of the NT (everything but Revelation) were canonical|
|375 AD||Veneration of angels and dead saints, and the use of images|
|393 AD||Council of Hippo affirmed 27 books|
|394 AD||The Mass as a daily celebration|
|397 AD||Council of Carthage affirmed 27 books[BV3]|
|431 AD||Start of the veneration of Mary and first use of the term “Mother of God” at the Council of Ephesus|
|500 AD||Priests began to dress differently than layman|
|526 AD||Extreme Unction|
|551 AD||Council of Chalcedon declares the church in Constantinople to be the head of the eastern branch of the church and equal in authority to the Pope|
|590 AD||Pope Gregory I becomes Pope and the church enters into a period of enormous political and military power. Some call this the beginning of the Catholic Church as it is known today|
|593 AD||The doctrine of Purgatory established by Gregory I|
|600 AD||The Latin language imposed by Gregory I|
|607 AD||Title of pope, given to Boniface III by emperor Phocas|
|632 AD||Islamic prophet Mohammad dies beginning a long conflict between Christianity and Islam|
|709 AD||Kissing of the pope’s foot began with pope Constantine|
|786 AD||Worship of the cross, images, and relics authorized|
|850 AD||Holy water, mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by a priest|
|927 AD||College of Cardinals established|
|995 AD||Canonization of dead saints, first by John XV|
|998 AD||Attendance at Mass made obligatory|
|1054 AD||The great East-West schism marks the formal separation of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches of the Catholic Church|
|1079 AD||Celibacy of the priesthood decreed by pope Gregory VII|
|1090 AD||The Rosary invented by Peter the Hermit|
|1184 AD||The Inquisition instituted by the Council of Verona|
|1190 AD||The sale of indulgences begun|
|1215 AD||Fourth Council of the Lateran – ratified the teaching of transubstantiation. Also the confession of sins to a priest|
|1439 AD||Purgatory proclaimed as dogma by the Council of Florence|
|1517 AD||Luther publishes the 95 Theses|
|1534 AD||King Henry VIII of England declares himself to be the supreme head of the Church of England, severing the Anglican Church from the Roman Catholic Church|
|1545-1563 AD||Catholic reformation begins|
|1545 AD||Tradition declared of equal authority by the Council of Trent|
|1546 AD||Council of Trent official accepts 11 of the Apocryphal books as canonical[BV4]|
|1854 AD||Immaculate Conception of Mary proclaimed by pope Pius IX|
|1870 AD||The First Vatican Council declares the policy of Papal infallibility|
|1950 AD||Assumption of Mary (bodily ascension into heaven) proclaimed by pope Pius XII|
|1960s AD||Second Vatican Council|
|1965 AD||Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church by pope Paul VI|
[BV1]The Muratorian Canon was discovered by Italian historian Ludovico Muratori in the Ambrosian Library in northern Italy in 1749. The copy his discovered was written in Latin and dates to the 7th or 8th century. Internal evidence suggests an original version around AD 180.
[BV2]See What are the Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical books? | GotQuestions.org
[BV3]The Council of Carthage listed the 27 books of the NT as well as the 39 books of the OT but included a few Apocryphal books such as Maccabees and Esdras. Prior to and after this council, most Christian and Jewish scholars held the Apocrypha to be non-canonical. They are omitted from the works of Philo, Origen, Melito of Sardis, Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome, and Athanasius. They were also excluded at the Council of Laodicea held less than 40 years prior.
[BV4]Trent declared both Scripture and tradition as authoritative. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone was rejected in favor of sacramental grace and righteousness based on an admixture of grace and works. The council also confirmed belief in transubstantiation. The council must be understood in its historical context. It has been called the anti-reformation council. Much of what it affirmed was in response to challenges coming from early Protestantism. The Apocryphal books contained support for doctrines such as prayers for the dead (purgatory) and indulgences.
Was Peter the First Pope?
The title “Pope” was first used by Tertullian in the early part of the 3rd century. He used the term in a sarcastic rebuke of Pope Callixtus I who he felt was exercising too much power in the church. The title is not found in Scripture.
Catholics will point to the account in Matthew 16 where Jesus asks the disciples who they say he is and Peter replies by calling him “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus comments that this revelation did not come from Peter but from the Father. He then makes a statement that the Catholic Church has used ever since as justification for their belief that the church is built on Peter and he was the first Pope.
13 xNow when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say yJohn the Baptist, others say zElijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, a“You are bthe Christ, cthe Son of dthe living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, e“Blessed are you, fSimon Bar-Jonah! For gflesh and blood has not revealed this to you, hbut my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, iyou are Peter, and jon this rock2 I will build my church, and kthe gates of lhell3 shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you mthe keys of the kingdom of heaven, and nwhatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed4 in heaven.” 20 oThen he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Much has been made by the Catholic Church on verse 18. To Catholics, this is proof Jesus singled out Peter to be the head of Christ’s church on earth, and by extension, his successors. Arguments have been put forth about the play on words taking place. Peter’s name means “rock” in Greek but two different Greek words are used in the text. Peter’s name is written as Petros which we are told means “small stone” whereas “on this rock” the word Petra is used which means a boulder. Thus, two different “rocks” are in mind.
Catholics will counter that Jesus would have been speaking in Aramaic and in Aramaic, there are not two different words for rock as in Greek, and that Greek grammar necessitated using the two different forms of “rock” not any play on words by Jesus. That ignores the fact that Matthew’s gospel was written (and inspired) in Greek and the different words may have been intentional to point out that Jesus did not mean that Peter was the foundation of the church.
Catholics will point out that there are other Greek words for “rock” beyond those two. One of them more clearly means boulder or foundation. So why didn’t Jesus use that word rather than Petros? One could respond, why didn’t Jesus say “on you Peter I will build my church?” That would have made it abundantly clear.
Personally, I would not try and resolve this dispute based on the wording. To my mind, Jesus could have had Peter in mind or Peter’s confession of faith. So how do we know which it is? This is where we must look at all of Scripture to find out the answer.
What’s interesting is that nowhere else in the NT is any mention made of Peter having a special role or being the head of the church. Tradition has it that James, half-brother of Jesus, was the head of the Jerusalem church. In Acts 15, we have recorded a record of the so-called Jerusalem conference. The occasion is Paul’s return to Jerusalem after several years of missionary church planting. He is bringing an offering of money collected for the relief of those suffering from famine in the city. He meets with his fellow Apostles to update them on his journeys and he shares with them an issue he has run into with the Gentile converts pertaining to the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Those gathered discussed the issue (we are not given the dialog) and finally Peter speaks out and gives an opinion which reads like a summary of what has been discussed. James, acting as the presiding leader, summarizes and assigns himself the task of writing a letter to be distributed regarding these matters.
Catholics see in this Peter acting as “pope” in that he gives the answer and sees James as merely a scribe or secretary tasked with documenting Peter’s decision. Others see James acting as the leader and making the final decision which is in keeping with his being the bishop of the church in Jerusalem. I think several points are worth noting:
- This is the only meeting of the Apostles to discuss an issue we know of. One conference is not enough to make assumptions about roles especially when the details are sparse. The description in Acts does not identify anyone as presiding or use any titles.
- We are not given the entire dialog. We don’t know if what Peter spoke had already been said by others and he was just summarizing or if those were his thoughts alone. We don’t have enough of the dialog to draw any conclusions.
- History identifies James as the bishop of Jerusalem, not Peter.
If Peter were the head of the church, this would have been an opportune time to identify him as acting in that role. Luke could have written that “Peter, acting as head of Christ’s church on earth, decided that…” but he wrote no such thing. There is nothing about this account that identifies Peter as acting in any official leadership position. Those who see that are importing a belief into the text.
When Paul writes about the foundation of the church, he says:
Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22) (emphasis added)
“God’s household” is the church. Paul says it is built on the foundation of the apostles (plural) and the prophets but shows Christ as the true foundation on which all depends. This would have been a great opportunity to identify Peter as the earthly foundation of the church but Paul does not mention Peter except indirectly as part of the Apostles. We simply find nothing in the Book of Acts that shows Peter as head of the church. Peter himself makes no mention of being the head in his letters (epistles).
Another interesting point of consideration is the gospel accounts of the same discussion found in Matthew 16. Let’s compare them:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He questioned His disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!b For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
20Then He admonished the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20)
Then Jesus and His disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way, He questioned His disciples: “Who do people say I am?”
28They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
29“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
30And Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him. (Mark 8:27-30)
One day as Jesus was praying in private and the disciples were with Him, He questioned them: “Who do the crowds say I am?”
19They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that a prophet of old has arisen.”
20“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:18-20)
So Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?”
68Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.f”
70Jesus answered them, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71He was speaking about Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. For although Judas was one of the Twelve, he was later to betray Jesus. (John 6:67-71)
Note how only in Matthew’s account is the part about Peter and the rock mentioned. Nothing is said about it in the other three gospels. Mark’s account is especially interesting. Mark, or John Mark, traveled with both Paul and Peter and it is assumed Mark got the information for his gospel from Peter. John Mark was a young man when Jesus was with the Apostles. He was not an Apostle and did not overhear these things himself. His information would have come from Peter.
His account says nothing about Peter being “the rock” upon which the church is built. Had Peter been “the rock”, surely Mark’s account would have mentioned it. Peter would want it to be known that the Lord chose him to lead the church. Not in a prideful sense but simply to make clear the Lord’s wishes. These gospels were written by different men in different places at different times. The authors weren’t gathered comparing notes and deciding who would include which details. The fact that only Matthew’s account includes the part about the rock, the keys, etc, does not mean Jesus did not say those things. Matthew was inspired as were Mark, Luke, and John. However, two of the four gospel authors were present (Matthew and John) and Mark got his information from Peter who was present. Yet only one account includes the part about “the rock.” Not many accounts of Jesus are included in all four gospels. This one is yet only one of the four accounts that include the comment on “the rock.” If Jesus had meant that Peter was “the rock” on which his church would be built, it seems odd that only one account mentions that important proclamation.
The Catholic Church argues that Jesus made Peter the “rock” or foundation of the church. An equal or greater argument could be made that it was Peter’s confession of faith that is the foundation for it is by that same confession of faith we become part of Christ’s church. Those present would have known which meaning Jesus had in mind. We can debate what Jesus meant but they would have known. Yet only one account even includes that part of the discussion which would seem to be a major omission if Peter was commissioned by Jesus to lead the church. That would be a major truth they would want to be recorded.
We don’t see Peter identified as the leader of the church in the Jerusalem council. Three of the four gospels don’t include Jesus’ words about “the rock.” None of the NT epistles make any mention of Peter being the head of the church. Despite the profound silence of the NT on Peter being the head of the church, the Catholic Church clings to Matthew’s account insisting it establishes Peter as the head of the church even though it could rightly be understood to be his confession of faith that is the foundation of the church. Even history does not establish Peter or anyone following him as leading the church. We are not even sure Peter visited Rome so how did the bishop of Rome become the supreme head of the church? Why not the bishop of Jerusalem? Is that not where the church started?
Scripture does not establish Peter as the head of the church. That was a later development by the church in Rome that was then backdated in an attempt to establish a line back to Peter yet no one was functioning in any capacity as “pope” until centuries after Peter. The Eastern churches never accepted the Bishop of Rome as having authority. This eventually led to a schism between the eastern and western churches that remains to this day.
Too Many Churches?
One argument I keep hearing against Protestantism is that there are so many Protestant denominations and surely God is not the God of confusion and would not let His church become so fractured. The implication is that Protestantism cannot be what God had in mind. This is in opposition to churches that feel they can trace their founding back to the first century as though having such a history is somehow a guarantee of orthodoxy.
This begs an important question. Should we expect, on earth, to find a perfect church that represents everything God had in mind when He started the church? If we look at the history of Israel, we see how even a near-theocratic nation, led by God, could get fractured. Israel had false prophets, false teachers, unbelieving Jews, legalistic Pharisees, doctrinally challenged Sadducees and a history of wandering from the faith. God always preserved a remnant, but the preaching of the Prophets shows God time and time again calling His people to repentance and more than once they were sent into captivity as a judgment on their sins.
What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Romans 3:1-2)
Despite having the Prophets, the Temple, the Scriptures (OT), and a cultural history of walking with God, the Jews often strayed and divisions existed. Unlike Judaism, which resided almost exclusively in Israel for centuries, Christianity spread beyond Israel almost from the start. It spread to Greeks and Romans, Egyptians, and people from all over. It spanned many languages and cultures. While it completed the message of the OT, it still brought change such that everyone was a convert at first. Being a Jew before becoming a Christian was not always an advantage as we see personified in the Judaizers. Some Jewish Christians brought the Law with them and attempted to add it to the Gospel. Many were initially uncomfortable with a faith without a Temple and a ceremonial law. It was a cultural shock to see Gentiles, once among the lowest of the low, suddenly on equal footing in the worship of God. In some ways, it was easier to come to Christ from a pagan background.
Not only were the Judaizers an early thorn in the side of the church but so were the Gnostics who tried to marry Platonian philosophy with Christianity. There were also false teachers and those who thought the gifts of God could be purchased. These things plagued the church while the Apostles were still alive. How much more so would they attack once the Apostles were gone? God did not spare the early church from division and strife. Paul wrote extensively to combat the false teachers and to address the divisions in the very churches he had established. These things were happening while the Apostles still lived. If God planned to preserve His church in unity, we don’t see evidence of it. Divisions existed right from the start.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
To expect to find a church today that lacks division or false teachers is a failure to learn from history. Paul warned us that there would be false teachers. Men who would tickle our ears. The Apostles battled false teaching by writing down the real teaching of the Lord and having it circulated among the churches. Their written record not only served as a hedge against false teaching 2000 years ago but serves that same purpose today.
There was never an earthly church preserved from error. Not even while the Apostles were alive. Jesus described tares growing up among the wheat to be separated on judgment day. Israel never had perfect unanimity and neither did the church. God always keeps a remnant though and that remnant is not confined to any one church, people group, social, or cultural group. It is comprised of those who cling to the truth, who study and show themselves approved, and who search the Scriptures.
In Biblical times it was not as easy to start a church as it is today. Most people walked to get to church. Most cities had but one church. You attended that church or none at all. Under different conditions, other churches might have sprung up like we see today.
What started on the Day of Pentecost, was the CHURCH, not a church. It was the church universal not to be confused with any particular church or denomination. The only sure teaching we have are those of Scripture. Anything else, no matter how godly, is the opinion of men. Only the Scriptures are divinely inspired. The writings of the early church fathers, while important and illuminating, are not on par with Scripture. If there were false teachers and false doctrine while the Apostles still lived, there certainly were 50, 100, or 200 years later. Even among these early writers, we see differences.
Does this leave us with no trustworthy faith? No! We often confuse that which is essential with that which is non-essential. In criticizing the many Protestant churches, the focus is always on their differences while turning a blind eye to their overwhelming similarities. A church’s style of worship, choice of eschatology, practice of speaking in tongues or not, … are not serious disagreements on the Gospel. Does one church’s decision to only sing hymns and another’s use of contemporary worship music constitute wholly different churches? Must all churches fall under one organizational structure? Where does Scripture teach that? We must not confuse the NT’s teaching on the church universal with that of the church local. We all want to claim we are THE church as though God confined all truth and righteous worship to just one group forever preserved from error. He did not so preserve Israel. He did not prevent division and false teachers in the Apostolic church. Why do we claim so now?
I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
What did Jesus mean by “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it?” Prevailing means overcoming and defeating. That would be the case if the truth was silenced and God had no remnant. That verse does not teach his church would not be attacked, not have divisions, and be preserved from all error. The tares will still grow among the wheat. Satan will not prevail against God’s church (the church universal). Satan will never stamp out faith on earth.
Sticking to a liturgy or structure for centuries is not a guarantee of truth. There was error mixed with truth from the very start of the church. We must always test all things against Scripture and distinguish between that which is tradition and that which is Scripture. Between that which is prescribed and that which is preference. OT worship was highly prescribed, yet it still did not stop false teachers and those with false hearts. The Pharisees were experts on what was prescribed yet added to it and were more concerned with the form than the substance. Jesus rightly called them empty tombs filled with dead men’s bones. He told us that the Father seeks those who worship in spirit and in truth. Having a tightly prescribed form still produced the Pharisees. It was not a guard against error. Truth was found in the Scriptures. The Pharisees neglected them and created a legalistic, manmade religion. They did not worship “in spirit and in truth.”
Would the Father prefer we had just one church we all belonged to? Perhaps but He is more concerned with preserving the wheat and keeping a faithful remnant. We worship in different languages in different places. We follow different liturgies or lack of liturgies. We sing different songs and have different histories but if we hold to the Gospel and worship in spirit and truth, those differences don’t matter. They are not the substance. There is nothing in Scripture that should make us assume there will be one church, preserved from error, that will endure. Instead, we see THE CHURCH, the church universal, that will prevail. That Jesus promised.
In the beginning, God created…
For a long time, scientists thought the universe was eternal and static. By eternal, they meant the universe had no beginning and likely would have no end. It just always was. This meant the universe would not need a creator. By static, they meant the universe would neither expand nor contract. It would stay the same size.
Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity suggested the universe had a beginning. This was confirmed by the American astronomer Edwin Hubble who in 1929 captured the red-shift of light far out in the universe. This proved that the universe was still expanding at an ever-increasing pace. All this pointed to the universe having a beginning. In other words, there was a time when the universe did not exist.
This begged the question, what caused the universe to come into existence? Philosopher William Lane Craig advanced an argument known as the kalam cosmological argument. His argument had three premises:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
(Craig, William Lane and James D. Sinclair, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland. West Sussex, UK:Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)
This is indeed consistent with our experience. Everything in our universe has a cause. At least so far as we can determine. There are things we have not yet discovered the cause of but we are certain there is a cause. So then, what about God? Did God have a cause? The answer is no. God had no cause because God never began to exist (see premise #1 above). God has always existed. He is without beginning or end. God is eternal. In other words, God is uncaused. This makes logical sense. If everything has to have a cause, to come into existence, then something, in the beginning, had to be without cause. Without that, nothing could come into being.
Science has confirmed the universe had a beginning. It had a cause. Therefore, the universe had to be caused by something. Since Hubble’s discovery, science has been trying to find a naturalistic explanation for the origins of the universe. Naturalism, in this context, means the material universe alone exists. Nothing exists outside of it. If true, then how did the universe come to be?
According to physicist Stephen Barr, naturalism is the view that “nothing exists except matter, and that everything in the world must therefore be the result of strict mathematical laws of physics and blind chance.” (Barr, Stephen. Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003)
If we dissect that statement, Barr is positing that matter is eternal. Matter is uncaused. Yet he states that matter was acted upon by “strict mathematical laws of physics.” Where did those laws come from? We know what the laws of physics are very exacting. They have to be exactly what they are in order for the universe to exist and life in it. Furthermore, the conditions at the beginning of the universe had to be very, very precise. Physicists call this the fine-tuning of the universe. Math is not a force. Math cannot cause anything to happen. Mathematical laws only describe how things behave once caused. If matter was eternal, mathematical laws could not cause that matter to form a universe. He also states that it was not just mathematical laws of physics but also blind chance. Chance also cannot cause anything to happen. Chance is a term we used to describe a mathematical probability. If you flip a coin, the chances of it coming up heads are 50%. Chance cannot flip the coin. Chance can only state the odds of the flip resulting in heads or tails. Blind chance is a non-sensical term. Chance neither sees nor is blind. Chance is a cold mathematical probability unbiased by anything. If chance were not blind, it would not be chance.
This all points to matter being a mere building block much like a brick. It can be used to create things and behaves when acted upon according to the laws of physics. Matter itself is not intelligent. If matter were intelligent then blind chance would not be necessary. Scientists like Barr want a naturalistic explanation of the universe yet have to make up causes like mathematical probability and blind chance neither of which are or can cause. They are trying to assign causal effects to something that can’t act.
This blind devotion to naturalism is what brings us other modern naturalistic theories like Multiverse Models, String Theory, Quantum Cosmology, and so on. Each of these theories fails to explain the origins of our universe. They all fail to identify the cause of it. If one limits themselves to naturalism then they will forever miss the answer. The first words of the Bible provide the answer. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God is the uncaused agent that caused the universe. While science purports to “follow the data” it violates that principle when it comes to the origins of the universe. I would suggest a reason.
Humanity does not want there to be a God. If we concede there is a God then we have to answer to that God. Coupled with the fact that God has identified Himself through the Bible such that we know what He requires from us, we now have to consider our actions and their morality. If, on the other hand, the universe is the product of blind chance with no creator, then we can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. We can live however we want. Ever notice how people are generally accepting of philosophies or beliefs that are non-propositional? These are philosophies or beliefs that do not make any demands or believe in absolute truth. The Romans conquered many lands. They had their gods and many of the peoples they conquered had gods of their own. The Romans were happy to let them continue to worship their gods. They detested the Jews precisely because the Jews were monotheistic (the belief there is only one God). Jewish beliefs were an affront to the Romans because the Jews only worshipped Yahweh and thus rejected all the Roman gods. As soon as anyone insists on one truth, that offends people who want to be their own gods and decide right from wrong. Science is committed to atheism. There are non-atheist scientists but they are the exception in modern times. Science is biased but has convinced most people that they are not and only consider the facts. More on this…
Science vs Religion?
There is a growing worldview that believes that science can, or at least is capable of, explaining everything. Given enough time and resources science will provide an explanation for everything that is. Given this belief then anything science cannot explain is presumed to be explained at some future, unknown time and thus one can never conclude science has no explanation for something. To arrive at this view, the supernatural has to be disallowed as a possible explanation. Since science cannot explain the supernatural, it rejects it. It is simply not possible that anything could exist outside the realm of what science can understand.
By definition, this means science and religion can never overlap. You either believe in science or religion (or that religion has nothing to do with science) but not both. They are opposing worldviews incapable of being reconciled. One can especially see this extreme dichotomy played out when it comes to the question of how the universe came to be and how life came to be within that universe. Science is forever in search of a theory that could explain the universe and life in it without any involvement by an outside intelligence (i.e. God). Science keeps searching in ever more convoluted ways to explain the origins of the universe with no willingness to even entertain theories that involve the supernatural.
One might liken this to a group of people who lack sight. They only believe in that what they can touch and feel since they lack sight. Now imagine they encounter people who can see and who describe to them things off in the distance that they could never touch or feel. Perhaps the moon in the night sky. The blind people would refuse to believe in the moon. They cannot touch it and feel it therefore it cannot exist. What if the sighted people explained to them how the moon was responsible for low and high tides which the blind people could experience? While the gravitational force of the moon would provide a plausible theory, the blind people simply could not accept that explanation and would continue to pursue an explanation that they could feel and touch.
Science is hardly blind but one might say it has a blind spot. Its blind spot is that it cannot accept or even consider that truth might exist outside the realm of what science can prove. In some ways devotion to a particular way of thinking is good. It can help exhaust the possibilities of that way of thinking. Criticism, testing, challenge, and debate are ways in which we test the veracity of our theories.
Consider our legal system. Someone charged with a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution makes arguments based on evidence and conjecture that would indicate the guilt of the accused. The defense attempts to refute these arguments and present their own evidence and conjecture on what happened. The prosecution will never give in and admit the defense is right and they were wrong nor will the defense give in and admit the prosecution is right and they are wrong. Both will do their best to argue their case and it is a judge or jury who ultimately decides the case. Even if the defense privately doubts the innocence of the accused it is still their job to try and defend them. Even if the prosecution privately concludes they lack enough evidence to prove their case they will still continue to make it. You could fairly say such an arrangement helps to shed light on the truth by testing each possible conclusion (guilt or innocence) to the utmost. Precisely, by staying devoted to one conclusion each side exhausts the veracity of each side of the argument. It helps if they believe their side is right but strictly speaking it is not necessary that they do. A public defender may be assigned a case they suspect is a losing one. Despite this, they still do their best to force the prosecution to prove their case. After all, if they are right then they should be able to prove they are right. That’s now it works.
Science is out to prove there is a purely naturalistic explanation for the universe and life in it. It will keep searching for naturalist explanations. Each time one is disproven they will move to another possible theory. They feel it is their duty to be committed to only naturalistic theories.
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism….Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
Retired Harvard evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin in the New York Review of Books 1997
There you have it, straight from an evolutionary biologist. No matter how contrived or forced their theories are, they are committed to materialism because the alternative is unthinkable. The supernatural or the divine is simply not a possibility they are willing to entertain.
Who is the judge or jury in this case? It is all of us, both scientists and non-scientists. Ultimately, we each have to decide what we believe. What’s difficult about this trial is that the arguments get very technical and go beyond the ability of most of us to understand at least without devoting years of our lives to studying such things. That said, there are some excellent authors that have done a good job explaining the science in a way the layman can comprehend even if we cannot investigate all the details ourselves.
I resolve the tension between science and religion (or science and the supernatural) in this way. Imagine I draw a large box (a large rectangle or square) on a blank sheet of paper. I label that shape truth. The size is arbitrary. No one knows the dimensions of the object or how much truth it can hold. It does, however, represent all truth. Inside this box I draw a circle. Again, the size is arbitrary but the circle does not completely fill the box. I label this circle science. It represents that subset of truth that can be discovered by science. What lies outside the circle, but within the box, is the supernatural. It is that which can never be discovered by science. It lies outside the boundaries of what science can discover.
Science begins with a hypothesis. A theory. For the theory to be accepted as fact, it has to be proven. That means it has to be testable. There must be a way to test the theory. It must be falsifiable which means you can devise a test that could prove it to be false if it was indeed false. It has to be repeatable. You have to be able to make it work more than once. Take nuclear fusion for example. There have been claims of nuclear fusion being obtained in a laboratory but to date, no one has been able to repeat those successes. We have no repeatable way to produce nuclear fusion so it remains elusive.
When it comes to origins, or how the universe was created, science breaks down. It is impossible to fully recreate the conditions that existed before time began. Any theory about that would not be testable. It could not be proven. How can science tell us what existed before the universe?
Scientists are pretty much in agreement that our universe began in the big bang when a highly condensed mass of matter exploded creating space as it expanded. The hot matter began to cool as it dispersed and this cooling created the stars and the planets. This was all dependent upon a very precise set of initial conditions that required fine tuning. The laws of physics are very precise. They have to be exactly what they are for the universe to exist. Where did the matter come from? How did these very precise laws of physics get determined? Science keeps trying to explain these things but keeps failing. I believe these answers lie outside of science. I would suggest that science is a worthy approach to understanding the universe that God created (within limits) but cannot explain God or how God spoke the universe into being from nothing (ex nihlo or literally, out of nothing).
The problem though is that science has convinced most of society, that science can answer all questions given enough time and resources. That gives science a perfect out for anything it can’t explain (i.e. we just haven’t had enough time or resources to explain this but eventually…). To quote physicist Stephen C. Meyer:
“No law of nature can close the casual discontinuity between nothing and the origin of nature itself”
(Return of the God Hypothesis, Stephen C. Meyer, 2021, Harper One, pg. 418)
As precise as we like to view science as being, even science accepts theories that offer the best explanation. In other words, when presented with data and a set of theories, which theory offers the best explanation which is normally thought to be the least complicated explanation that fits the data. Yet if something supernatural best fits the data, it is rejected out of hand. We sometimes encounter in classic crime dramas an intriguing case in which an explanation seems to elude investigation. Often the main investigator will say something like “If you eliminate all that is impossible, you are left with what is possible.” In other words, if you eliminate all the normal logical explanations that you have no evidence for, then you must consider what is left even if it seems impossible. Even if it involves the supernatural. Science may not like the supernatural or even believe in it but science cannot disprove it. It remains an uncomfortable thorn-in-the-side for science. Some scientists view supernatural explanations as a cop-out. Yet, the supernatural is not always invoked simply because the natural cannot explain something but because the supernatural is the best explanation. This is where the science of intelligent design or ID comes from. It is a scientific theory that says that creation requires that there had to be an intelligence behind it and that the universe and life in it are the results of an intelligent design. ID does not specify who or what that intelligence is. Indeed, it has adherents who are atheists. They simply have concluded that the only, and best, explanation for the universe is that there was an intelligence that designed it and is beyond the ability of science to define it. The atheist who believes in ID would conclude that there had to be an intelligent designer and would admit that they have no explanation as to the identity of that intelligence. A Christian or Jewish scientist who believes in ID would likely say it was God.
Science has fought a holy war against ID. The very idea of it threatens science. They feel that if they admit there might be a supernatural explanation then all of science is undermined when that is not the case.
Oftentimes science tries to explain the origins of the universe, or of life in the universe, as the result of chance. By chance, they mean a long history of trial-and-error until by blind luck something works. You might picture Thomas Edison who kept experimenting with different filaments in his quest to get a working lightbulb. He tried hundreds of filaments before he finally found one that worked. Was that chance? Of course not. Thomas Edison was an intelligent man. He had a goal in mind (a lightbulb, powered by electricity, that could safely stay lit for a long enough period of time to make the lightbulb a commercial success). So he knew what success would be. He had a specific goal and a way of knowing when it was achieved. He also was able to learn from his mistakes. As different materials used as filaments failed to meet his goal, he learned. Some failures caused him to no longer pursue certain materials. Each failure guided him in what to try next. He wasn’t blindly reaching into a box of materials and randomly pulling one out. It still took many trials to achieve success but it wasn’t blind chance that lead to the first lightbulb. In fact, before he pronounced success, he has a few semi-successes. He found some materials that lit the bulb but burned out quickly. They produced light but too briefly to manufacture a usable bulb from. Part of his goal was to design a lightbulb that could stay lit for weeks or months so people would not have to constantly replace them which would make them impractical.
If we deny the possibility of an intelligent designer, then we have two problems. First – where did matter come from and where did the laws of physics come from? How did matter know to super condense and then to explode? Where did the laws come from that fixed how that matter would act as it expanded and cooled? Even if you posit the laws were derived by trial and error, you still have no answer to where matter came from. Second – how does chance know when it has succeeded? Chance has no end goal nor can it learn from its past failures. When one considers how precise the initial conditions of the universe had to be (what physicists call fine tuning), how did chance know when one property was correct and to stop varying it while working on the others? It wouldn’t know. It would have to somehow get all of them right in one shot. We are talking about properties that can’t be off by even the slightest bit. The usual answer is that given enough time, chance will eventually pull it off. It might take trillions of trillions or trillions of tries but at some point, it will hit on the right combination. How does it know it’s done? Well, it doesn’t except when it succeeds the created universe will persist rather than collapsing again due to failure. That of course begs the question of how did matter obtain the properties necessary to make it try again after each failure. Even if we allow that given enough time chance could finally get it right (forgetting for the moment problem #1), how long would that take?
Let’s now ask that question relative to life in the universe. Scientists are pretty certain the universe is a little over 18 billon years old. The earth is a little over 3 billion years old. Is 18 billion years enough time for chance to create human life? Remember, chance has no goal in mind. If life came from a primordial soup of amino acids and such, how much trial and error did it take to create human life? 18 billion years is a long time and too big of a number for us to imagine. For centuries science could not tell us how long it would take for trial and error to create life. Along came microbiology and the invention of sophisticated computer-driven microscopes and test equipment that could actually show us this level of activity and allow us to observe amino acids combining. Human DNA is made up of 8 proteins. Each protein is made up of hundreds of amino acids. For a protein to form it has to have the exact combinations of amino acids needed and they would have to be added in the precisely correct sequence. To get human life all 8 proteins would have to get formed exactly right at the same time. How long is that going to take?
Now we can start to put numbers around this. We can measure how long it takes for amino acids to form into proteins and then proteins to combine. We can use those measurements combined with the probabilities of such combinations occurring and derive an estimate of how long that would take by chance. The answer is orders and orders and orders of magnitude longer than the universe has existed. Simply put, the universe has not existed long enough to have created human life by chance. Now, if scientists want to combine amino acids in a laboratory to create human DNA, they could do it much, much, much quicker because they already know the exact combinations needed. They could get it right on the first try! It helps to know the answer before you start. If, however, the human life is the product of blind, indifferent, unintelligent chance, then 18 billion years is nowhere close to long enough. That’s like saying you have to cross the Pacific Ocean from California to China and at best swimming speed, assuming you had the skill, it would take you six months of swimming but oh, you only have a nano second. Uh, that’s not going to happen.
Ok, you argue, but even if the odds against something happening are a million to one, there is still a chance you get succeed on your first try. On average no but you could get lucky. People do win the lottery despite the low odds. Ok, but now let’s say you have to win the lottery every day for 10 years straight. How many years do you think would have to pass before you could do that? I don’t know, I haven’t done the math, but I’m guessing hundreds of thousands of years, perhaps millions or billions. Now, what are the odds you do it in the first 10 years? Would you bet your life on those odds? Could it happen? In theory but the odds are so infinitesimal that no rational person would give it any chance of happening the first time. If 10 years was all you had, do you think it would happen? What if you were in charge of the lottery and knew what the winning number was going to be each day and had access to all the tickets before they were shipped out to all the stores. Well, in that case, you could simply find the winning ticket each day and keep it for yourself and win every day for 10 years. Of course, in real life, you would never get away with that but if you could then it would work.
So, which is more likely, chance created human life in a fraction of a fraction of a fraction (…) of the time needed by trial and error or some intelligence planned and created human life and got it right the first time? If you didn’t have a bias against the divine, wouldn’t that be the most compelling answer? Remember, even if you still think chance beat all the odds and got it right way, way, way, way… before it should have, you still have the problem of where did matter come from and the laws of physics? Science has never been able to solve that problem though some silly attempts have been made.
So what to believe? There is a persistent belief in science that someday science will have the answer. While optimistic, it discounts the possibility, and I would argue the inescapability, that there are some answers even science can’t find.
I have read where scientists believe the matter that expanded from the Big Bang created space as it expanded. Instead of expanding into something, the universe created space as it went. So, what’s beyond the universe? Nothing according to science. The universe is all there is. However, we don’t really know that. We are finite creatures whose physical existence is dependent on the physical universe. We are part of the universe and cannot look beyond it. We are on the inside and can’t look outside. Think of us as a dust spec inside a balloon. Since we are inside the balloon, and the balloon is not transparent, we cannot see what is outside the balloon. As the balloon continues to fill with air, we float around inside the balloon but we can never leave it or look outside it. We know what the balloon is made of and understand a bit about why it is expanding but we don’t know where the material that makes up the balloon came from. We’ve come to understand that material has elasticity that governs how it responds to air pressure but we don’t know how it came to have that property. We can explore inside the balloon and make many discoveries but since we are inside the balloon, we can’t know what is outside the balloon (if anything) or where the balloon came from. Logic tells us something, someone must have created the balloon and started it filling with air but what? Some, not liking the idea that something exists outside the balloon and created it, try to come up with other theories about how the balloon came to be. Perhaps there were other balloons and as they popped their air filled our balloon? That must be it. Except how did those balloons get created and where did their air come from? No matter how you slice it, how you dice it, somehow something had to just exist. It had to be self-existent (had no creator) yet had the ability to create. It had to be intelligent to create a balloon with properties of elasticity, light transmission, and other properties. It’s either that or you have to believe the original balloon just existed and had these properties.
Everything we know inside our balloon tells us things happen for a reason. There is cause and effect. Actions cause reactions. Things are not just random. There are laws that govern how things happen. Indeed, without these laws our balloon would not even exist or hold together. So, which is more logical? Did the balloon and its properties somehow exist eternally or did an intelligent being exist eternally and create the balloon and keeps it existing?
An intelligent being makes more sense and fits the data we have much better. I would further state that intelligence is God. Not just “god” but Jesus Christ and the God of the Bible. The Bible tells us that everything that was created was created by Jesus Christ. The first words of the Bible are, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….” What beginning? That statement refers to the beginning of our universe. God already existed. God is not bound to time and space. He is without beginning and without end. While God is omnipresent and fills the universe, God is not dependent on the universe and exists independent from it. Our clock started ticking when, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. That is the beginning Genesis 1:1 refers to.
I realize other religions and belief systems posit some kind of creator or living matter but none is backed up by the evidence the Bible presents. Time does not permit me to get into those arguments but the Bible is absolutely unique in all of human literature and the factual events it describes contain things that only an eternal omnipotent God, who exists outside of time and space, could do. I see no other explanations that have near the support. God is not just an idea or fanciful thinking. The Bible contains real, verifiable history. I would argue that belief in the God of the Bible and His being the cause of all of creation is the most logical, reasonable, and scientific answer.
I believe science and faith can, and must coexist. They are only at odds in the minds of those who will not accept or consider faith in the supernatural and evidence for a Divine Creator. Science continues blindly trying to understand Creation without its Creator.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3)
What Happened to Discernment?
I want to address something I see going on all around us in society and it is of increasing concern to me. There are many facets to it and my own thoughts keep evolving. I will try an onion skin approach to this. Start out high level and gradually peel away more layers over multiple postings. It’s too much to tackle all at once so bear with me as I develop this. I want to first state the problem before getting into the details.
Our society is more divided than any time since the Civil War. I see different factions and then factions within factions so it’s hard to neatly divide society into two buckets. The Democrat/Republican divide has been with our country since its founding. It’s waxed and waned and what was the Federalist party morphed into the Democratic party but politics has always been with us and always will be. On the plus side, we live in a country that allows different parties and voices and debate. Much better than being in a communist country where there is only one party, one voice, and no debate.
It’s more than just political divides. We increasingly hear about the divide between rich and poor, environmentalists and their opposites, white color versus blue-collar, white people versus everyone else, religious versus non-religious, women against men, and on and on. Most of those aren’t new but might be newly emphasized. I think a lot of the divides became clearer when Donald Trump took office. Trump, in my view, is an interesting character. On one hand, he represents the traditional Republican ideal. Rich, white, business owner, wants small government, wants fewer regulations, whatever is good for business is good for the nation! On the other hand, he also appeals to a lot of regular Americans who don’t own businesses or are wealthy. He appeals to so-called Patriots, Second Amendment advocates, Evangelicals, a wide array of conservatives, even White Supremacists. Despite being raised with a silver spoon, Trump still appeals to a lot of the working class or those tired of politics as usual. He campaigned on a theme of “Make America Great Again” and “Draining the Swamp” and his brashness and irreverence appealed to a lot of people. It almost seemed like the more badly he behaved the more his followers liked him. The little guy could strangely identify with Trump because he was politically incorrect. He shot from the hip and took no pains to pick his words carefully. He invented funnyish but crude names for his opponents. Nervous Nancy (Pelosi), Sleepy Joe (Biden), and so on. That crudeness and irreverence actually won over some people adding to his appeal as not-a-politician.
Trump was also masterful at turning everything into “us” versus “them.” It was the Rebellion versus the Empire in a Lukasoian battle. Trump represented the Rebellion trying to take back America from the Evil Empire represented by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats as well as liberals and socialists and all who would drag America into the swamp. From the start, Trump complained about how the media treated him unfairly and twisted his words (what President hasn’t felt that way at times?). He warned the forces of evil would do anything to remove him from office.
I think this appealed to a segment of the population that were looking for a cause and someone to lead them. They wanted a great crusade and in Trump, they found their bannerman. All the weekend militia groups suddenly had a war to prepare for and a cause to fight for. He gave purpose to disparate groups of people who had in common a disdain for the status quo and a desire to be part of something bigger. Trump wasted no time in attracting such people to his cause and kept them fired up throughout his Presidency with new claims of the evil plans of the left.
Trump also started another way of dividing Americans and that was his invention and use of the term “Fake News.” I don’t know if Trump invented the term but he was certainly the first to use it with such a big platform and media coverage. Any news that didn’t meet Trump’s approval got labeled “fake news” and as such dismissed as dishonest and invented to make him look bad. It wasn’t just news articles that got labeled “fake news” but whole media companies. Soon millions of Americans, mostly Trump followers, were using the term “fake news.” That soon led to a companion term usually abbreviated MSM which stood for Mainstream Media. The implication was that anything produced by the mainstream media was fake news. The mainstream media had it in for Trump and would twist his words, lie, manipulate, and violate journalistic standards all in its vile hatred for him and all he stood for. Trump was sure to also make the connection that the MSM was anti-American. It was controlled by some rich, liberal, elites who did not like someone like Trump coming in exposing the truth, and draining the swamp so they fought back with their corrupt media. It was more Rebellion versus the Empire or one might say, the Empire Strikes Back via the media.
This gave rise to alternative media sites. Some new some previously obscure but if they got Trump’s endorsement then his followers would flock to them as the only source of truth. As long as they backed Trump he gave them his endorsement and no one in the Trump camp bothered to fact-check them. If anyone on “the other side” pointed out errors in their reporting, they got dismissed as MSM plants just out to discredit anything pro-Trump and not to be trusted.
This set the stage for the eventual showdown over the 2020 election. Trump began claiming, early in 2020, that the only way he could lose re-election was if the election was stolen from him. It was not possible that the Democrats could beat him in a fair fight. Despite stating this nearly six months before the election, Trump took no steps to try and ensure the American voting system was safeguarded by working with states to tighten their voting laws and make sure the elections would be fair (not that there was reason to doubt they wouldn’t be). It was common knowledge that due to covid a record number of people would vote via absentee ballot and since those were more likely to be Democratic votes than Republican votes Trump began warning that absentee ballots were the Achilles heel of American elections and the most likely avenue by which the election would be stolen.
As soon as the returns started to indicate Trump might lose a close election, he immediately began to say “I told you so” and thus began months of claims and accusations about a stolen election. He had laid the groundwork for his followers to readily side with him in the claim of election fraud. After all, they reasoned, he told us this would happen! Despite loss after loss in the courts and a failure to prove any fraud had taken place, Trump would not give up or shut up. He took to social media (long his soapbox) and continued to make claims along with his high-profile backers. Eventually, there was so much unsubstantiated information out on social media that, under pressure, the social media giants began to censor posts and eventually Trump himself got kicked off Twitter and Facebook. This was of course unprecedented and controversial. What about the First Amendment and freedom of speech? The events of January 6th only threw gasoline on the fire. The fight turned real and ugly and there was evidence much of the civil disobedience and criminal acts had been planned on social media.
While the debate raged over the election, another debate was brewing and that of covid. On one hand, Trump led the charge on getting emergency vaccines created and made available something he took and still takes, great pride in. At the same time, he often refused to wear a mask, complained that there was too much testing which was making the numbers look bad, and generally came across as anti-vax. More recently, when he has spoken in favor of vaccination, many of his own booed him. He got caught playing politics. He wanted the political capital from having championed the vaccines yet when they proved unpopular among many of his followers, he tried to downplay them and all the time insisted things were not as bad as reported and that covid was no big deal. He did not want his approval ratings to suffer if people thought his leadership had been deficient in responding to covid. Now he is between a rock and a hard place. He laments the lack of credit given to him for the vaccines (and the tens of millions he says were saved by them) yet is faced with a loyal following that tends (thanks in large part to him) to be anti-government and distrusting of anything the government advocates.
In parallel to all this, is a movement within some evangelicals to interpret covid and vaccines along with more government intervention as tools of a secret group of global elites that are working behind the scenes to prepare the world for the One-World government of the coming Antichrist. They see covid as something planned (the “plandemic”) to condition the citizens of the world to accept government mandates and increasing government control over their lives. Mask mandates, closures, and mandatory testing were all tools of these elitists to gain control over us and make it easier for the Antichrist to assume total control when he arrives. Many of the same people believe the vaccines contain substances or technologies that might in time be turned into the Mark of the Beast predicted in the Bible that will be used by the Antichrist to limit those who can buy and sell. Some even went so far as to suggest mRNA vaccines were actually altering our DNA creating transhumans who, lacking genuine human DNA, would not longer be covered by the blood of Christ and would lose all hope of salvation. They feel the signs are all lining up demonstrating that the Tribulation is near and the Antichrist is soon to step on the world stage.
Many of these same people also viewed Trump as God-anointed. A contemporary, mini-savior sent to warn us and make one last-ditch attempt to call America to repentance and a return to being a God-fearing nation. He was our Luke Skywalker come to lead the Rebellion and establish peace in the Empire. Trump’s many shortcomings were forgiven under the umbrella of being a “baby Christian.” The fact that he had a group of Christian advisors and stood up for Israel and Christian rights were proof of his calling. He was our last, best hope before the darkness took over. Naturally, the forces of evil would do anything to discredit and defeat him in this cosmic struggle over good versus evil.
That’s the outer layer of the onion. Before I peel back more layers let me make a few disclaimers and explanations. I am a Christian and do believe in a coming Rapture (pre-tribulation), a Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, His Millennial Kingdom, and the reality of the Antichrist. I don’t’ claim to know who the Antichrist will be if he’s alive today, or how soon his appearance will be. I am not personally convinced the pandemic was planned or that the vaccines will “become the Mark of the Beast.” I am not generally in favor of vaccine mandates. I could be wrong about any or all of that. My concern, as I will go on to demonstrate, is that there is a lot of misinformation flying about, and a lot of people who have quit thinking critically and blindly believe whatever they hear if it’s according to their predisposition or the “side” they are on. I believe truth matters and the ends don’t justify the means. Regardless of how I might personally feel about something, if I encounter information I have reason to believe is false, I will say so whether that favors my personal position or goes against it. I want to be persuaded by the facts, not assumptions or speculation. I have already caught a lot of flack for this. On some Christian forums, I have been blasted for critiquing information that is popular on those sites. Almost never do the attacks point out a flaw in my case (not that I am right about everything or flawless), but rather I get attacked simply because I dared to question something they hold to be true and thus make myself their enemy and a tool of Satan. So many people have quit thinking! They just want to find their camp, pitch their tent, and charge! The facts be damned! While there is a spiritual war going on, we are not to blindly charge, unless it is clear from Scripture those are our orders. You are not a traitor if you question things. Did not the Apostle Paul commend the believers in Berea for checking him out by Scripture?
As for Trump and politics, I believe this. Politics is not our salvation and Trump is not our savior (not saying he claims to be). I have Christian friends who are upset if I even question something Trump said or did. I am not anti-Trump. I did not vote for Hillary. That’s not my point. The Bible tells us the root problem is the heart of man. All evil thoughts and actions begin in our hearts. The sins of this nation are due to the sinful hearts of its people. Unless hearts change, the nation will remain the same or grow worse. No President, court, or congress can save this nation. Hearts must be saved by the Gospel. While we should stand up to evil and advocate for good, our marching orders from Jesus were to fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus and the Apostles lived under the corrupt and cruel Roman Empire. Never did they advocate overthrowing the empire, or trying to get a Christian Emperor selected. They pretty much stayed silent on politics only charging us to obey the governing authorities set over us. Many Jews were stumbled by Jesus not, at that time, establishing His earthly kingdom. Surely their Messiah would kick the Romans out and put Israel back at the head of nations! Yet Jesus did not come, at that time, to establish a political kingdom. He came to change hearts and deliver us from the power of sin and death. The day will come when Christ will return in glory and will establish his earthly, physical kingdom. That is at His Second Coming.
I see three primary things for us to be busy about today as believers. First, we should love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, soul, and strength, Second, we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Third, we should fulfill the Great Commission by proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples. Those three things never change. It doesn’t matter if the Rapture is tomorrow, next year, or a thousand years off. Until heaven and hell are full of their inhabitants, we are to spread the Gospel. I think there is a danger in getting too caught up in trying to discern when the Lord will return and where we are in prophesy. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were still looking up at the sky when an angel appeared to them to remind them that Jesus will return in the same way but for now, they had work to do! I question if my own time is well spent commenting on these things but I fear many believers are getting sidetracked by politics, covid, prophecy, etc. I also see it dividing Christians between those “in the know” and those who are blind. It is in the hope of addressing those problems that I write.
The Chosen – Was Mary Blasphemed?
There is a new TV series out called The Chosen. As of this writing there are two seasons but a third is hoped for and the creator envisions seven seasons. It is a crowd funded series so it is not up to the whims and ratings of a network but still needs finances to be filmed. The series depicts the lives of the early disciples of Jesus and how they were each called as well as the parallel events going on in the life of Jesus. One of the characters is Jesus’ mother Mary.
The creator of the series is not Catholic although the actor who plays Jesus is. There are some Catholics who are upset about the portrayal of Mary in the series. They do not believe enough honor is given to Mary and that blasphemous things are said about her. That’s an interesting accusation because Biblically blasphemy is a crime against God and God only. The Pharisees accused Jesus of blasphemy, because He claimed to be God and, in their eyes, he was only a man. When Jesus acknowledged that He was the Christ, the Son of God before the High Priest, the High Priest tore his outer garment as a show of indignation that such blasphemy had just been spoken. By Jewish law a blasphemer was to be executed. So, to accuse people today of blaspheming against Mary equates her to God! It puts her in a category reserved only for God.
According to one Jewish source:
What Is The Jewish Law Of Blasphemy? – chicagojewishnews.com
The punishment for blasphemy is death in Leviticus 24:16. The Seven Laws of Noah, which Judaism considers applicable to all people, prohibit blaspheming the name of the Lord, which is the only form of blasphemy that is punishable by death in Jewish law.
A person who says something disrespectful to God is considered to be blasphemy.
It was not just saying something disrespectful to God but also falsely claiming to be God.
Matthew 26:63–66 (ESV): 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”
That is blasphemy by Jewish law. They were of course mistaken because Jesus truly was the Son of God, but believing He wasn’t they correctly charged Him with blasphemy. To consider any statement regarding Mary as blasphemy is clearly going outside the definition and has the effect of placing Mary on the same level as God.
Let me show you how and where this allegation was made:
You can read the accusation here. The author, Fr. Nix, is a Catholic priest. He writes, quoting dialog from the TV series:
Part 1a: The Script from Section A. Rama says, “I feel like I need to not make anymore mistakes” and Mother Mary responds, “How do you think I felt?”
Part 1b: The Theology. This is blasphemy against the Immaculate Virgin Mary because she was sinless and faultless and this script implies she was not by making “mistakes.” Is a mistake the same as a sin? Not necessarily, but even evangelical songs of praise and worship now use “sin” and “mistake” interchangeably, so claiming a “sin” is not the same as a “mistake” no longer holds water in the year 2021. And if “mistake” is not tantamount to “sin,” that is, if “mistake” only means: “accidentally adding too much salt to the bread” then why did Rama express so much conviction in saying, “I feel like I need to not make anymore mistakes”? Yes, if mistakes are accidents, then the Chosen‘s Jesus is making His own disciples feel great shame and guilt for putting too much salt in the bread. And Mother Mary has apparently corrected herself on this, too.
Fr. Nix considers this blasphemy because He believes (Catholics believe) Mary was “sinless and faultless” and therefore would not make mistakes. While his logic is dubious in equating mistakes to sins, he still feels Mary is being slighted, blasphemed. Why?
Part 1c: The Bible and Fathers. The Bible uses the Greek word κεχαριτωμένη to speak of the Immaculate Virgin Mary: And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.—Luke 1:28. The Greek word for “full of grace” there is κεχαριτωμένη and it is the perfect past participle of both the noun and verb GRACE. Put this together and it means the Angel Gabriel is saying to the Immaculate Virgin Mary that she is already fully graced perfectly—hence the perfect past participle of the verb)
The Church Fathers were unanimous as to the sinlessness of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. The Eastern Fathers called her in Greek PAN-HAGIA (all holy.). When someone asked St. Augustine about this, he replied “I wouldn’t even use ‘sin” in the same sentence as her.” Not a single Christian in the first 1000 years of Christianity has ever doubted the sinlessness of Mary.
Pope BI. Pius IX wrote Ineffabilis Deus in 1854 including the following: “Far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully.”
Here, Fr Nix tries to give us a Greek lesson. He quotes from an English translation taken from the Latin Vulgate. He claims the Greek word κεχαριτωμένη means “full of grace” and then says it was used in the perfect past participle meaning Mary was already “fully graced perfectly”, or in other words, sinless. His understanding of Greek is flawed.
First, a better translation of the word would be “highly favored.” That is consistent with how the word is used in other verses and its Greek origin. The angel was not saying Mary was sinless but rather saying she was highly favored by God. To quote one source:
Κεχαριτωμένος is a perfect passive participle (a verbal adjective) derived from χαριτόω, “to show favor”. Here it is inflected as a feminine singular in the vocative (addressing) case. The inflected meaning is roughly, “O woman who has been shown favor”. No agent is stated as the originator of favor. This is sometimes termed a “divine passive”; the agent is unstated on the grounds that it is obvious to everyone that it is God.
(greek – Is κεχαριτωμένη synonymous with πλήρης χάριτος? – Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange)
Nothing about this verse proclaims Mary “full of grace.” You could perhaps say she was shown grace by God in being highly favored but neither the word nor the Greek tense, voice, and mood imply what Fr Nix and the Catholic Church want it to.
Part 2a: The Script from Section A. She says, “I had to clean him off. He was covered in, uh, I will be polite. He needed to be cleaned.”
Part 2b: The Theology. All of the Church Fathers hold that the birth of Jesus was painless to both Jesus and Mary and miraculous, likening this to “the emergence of Christ from the sealed tomb, His going through closed doors, the penetration of the ray of sun through glass.”—Ott 206
Part 2c: The Bible and Church Fathers. Mary’s painless giving birth to Jesus is prophesied in Isaiah 66:7: “Before she was in labour, she brought forth; before her time came to be delivered, she brought forth a man child.” Furthermore, even a non-Catholic Christian should have been able to identify that a painful and messy birth is the effect of sin from Gen 3:16. Mary, who was sinless as proved above, was spared this. The infallible Lateran Synod in 649 under Pope Martin I said “She conceived without seed, of the Holy Ghost, generated without injury [to her virginity] and her virginity continued unimpaired after the birth.”
In the 20th century, Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical Mystici Corporis that “It was she who gave miraculous birth (mirando partu edidit) to Christ Our Lord.” One of the Eastern Church Fathers, St. Basil, wrote “The friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin.” Yes, all of this shows that every Christian in the first 1000 years of Christianity (except heretics) would be disgusted at a blasphemous line such as, “I had to clean him off. He was covered in, uh, I will be polite. He needed to be cleaned” in reference to what every early Christian and Church Father knew (via Scripture and oral tradition) to be a miraculous birth.
This is another peculiar tenant of the Catholic faith. They hold that Mary was born without original sin, never sinned, and remained a virgin throughout her life. None of that can be found in Scripture. The Roman Catholic church reasons that Mary had to be sinless or else Christ would have been stained by original sin through her and thus Christ could not be sinless. We know Jesus was immaculately conceived so he had no biological father. Most scholars agree that original sin began with Adam and is passed down through our fathers (i.e. not the mothers although they contain the stain of original sin as well but it is accounted through the father). Jesus did not need Mary to be without original sin for Him to be without it. Furthermore, Mary never claims to be sinless. In Luke 1:46-47, Mary says:
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour”
If Mary was sinless, why would she call God her Savior? Only a sinner needs a savior. She didn’t thank God for creating her sinless so she didn’t need a savior. This is a position the Catholic church has backed itself into because of their insistence that Mary had to be sinless to not pass original sin to Jesus.
What about Mary being “ever virgin?” This is another unscriptural assumption the Catholic church makes. Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born. The definition of being a virgin is that you’ve never had intimate relations. The process of birthing a baby does not remove your virginity. Granted, in our day and time that possibility is pretty narrow, but suppose a doctor could inject a fertilized egg into a woman’s vagina and create a pregnancy? Would that woman no longer be a virgin? What aspect of Mary having a normal labor negated her virginity? Of course, there was blood. Jesus was still a baby in the womb surrounded by fluid and blood. No baby is birthed perfectly clean. Yes, God could have had the baby Jesus born perfectly clean, but nothing in Scripture demands that. What about Mary having no labor pains? Maybe the Lord spared her. I wasn’t there but there is nothing in Scripture that precludes the possibility of her having had labor pains. The passage quoted from Isaiah 66:7, is not talking about Mary. It is talking about the birth of the church. It meant the birth of the NT church would come suddenly and quickly without difficulty. That passage has nothing to do with Mary. In Isaiah 66:8, the prophet asks “Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?” He’s not talking about a baby being born. This is the birth of the church!
Another issue Fr Nix has is this:
Part 3a: The Script from Section A. “It actually made me think for just one moment, is this really the Son of God? And Joseph later told me he briefly thought the same thing. But we knew he was. I don’t know what I expected.”
Part 3b: The Theology. Mary knew Christ was the Son of God. The Angel told her so. She never doubted this, and certainly not 9 months after the Annunciation.
Part 3c: The Bible and Church Fathers. The Church Fathers are not even needed for this one. It’s absolutely unbiblical and blasphemous for Mary to say at any point following the birth of Jesus that she asked herself (or Joseph) “Is this really the son of God?” Mary is the greatest prophetess who ever lived, so she probably intuited all of this at the Annunciation and Incarnation (if not before) but we have proof in the Gospel of St. Luke that nine months before the birth of Jesus, Mary already knew He was the Son of God for the Angel Gabriel directly announced to the Immaculate Virgin Mary: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.—Luke 1:35. If you had an angel appear to you who called Christ the Son of God and then had a miraculous birth, would you utter the words a few months later, “It actually made me think for just one moment, is this really the Son of God?”
I am not affiliated with the show in any way nor an apologist for it. It follows the Biblical accounts very closely but as the show’s disclaimer states, they had to use a little creative license to try and build a story around the Gospel narratives. So Scripture does not contain this fictional conversation. However, I think what the writer of the narrative was trying to convey, was the wonder Mary and Joseph had that this tiny baby was actually the Son of God. Yes, they knew He was. I don’t believe they doubted that for a second. Still, here she was holding a tiny life helpless like all babies are and dependent on their parents. Would God have allowed the baby Jesus to die of neglect? Of course not! Remember though, Jesus was still a man. He still got hungry, tired, thirsty, bled. Mary and Joseph still needed to care for the newborn Messiah the same as any parents would care for a newborn child. It is in that sense I say he was helpless.
It is one thing to be told your child will be the Son of God, which in incredible acts of faith, both Joseph and Mary believed. Jesus was miraculously conceived. Yet, experiencing that as parents is quite another thing. The Bible is pretty much silent on Jesus’ childhood. Other than the time he stayed behind in Jerusalem to converse in the Temple, we are not told anything. There is nothing in Scripture though to suggest the young Jesus was doing unusual, miraculous things. His miracle at Cana of turning water into wine is described as His first miracle. He was nearly 30 years old when that happened. I can imagine Mary and Joseph watching Jesus grow and mature knowing He was the Messiah yet still seeing a normal boy who helped Joseph with his carpentry and probably played normal childhood games with his half siblings or neighboring children. Being the Son of God did not stop Mary from being worried when it was discovered that Jesus was not in the caravan returning from Jerusalem. Like any parents they rushed back to Jerusalem to look for Him and were relieved to find Him. His story of having been in the Temple conversing with the teachers must have amazed them. What boy that age does that? Not only that, but the young Jesus knew more about the Scriptures then the teachers He was talking to! Why did Jesus answer by saying He needed to be in His father’s house (i.e. the Temple)? If they fully knew He was the Messiah, and understood all the ways that would manifest itself in His young life, they would have said “Well, that makes sense. Of course you were!” The reality is, they were two human parents trying to comprehend that their son was no ordinary boy but the Son of God!
Saying Mary was a prophetess is not Scriptural. Nowhere in Scripture are we told Mary was a prophet. As noted earlier, we are not told she was immaculately conceived nor that she was “ever virgin.”
The idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary is unbiblical. Matthew 1:25, speaking of Joseph, declares, “But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.” The word until clearly indicates that Joseph and Mary did have normal sexual relations after Jesus was born. Mary remained a virgin until the Savior’s birth, but later Joseph and Mary had several children together. Jesus had four half-brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). Jesus also had half-sisters, although they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:55–56). God blessed and graced Mary by giving her several children, which in that culture was accepted as the clearest indication of God’s blessing on a woman.
One time when Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd proclaimed, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed” (Luke 11:27). There was never a better opportunity for Jesus to declare that Mary was indeed worthy of praise and adoration. What was Jesus’ response? “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28). To Jesus, obedience to God’s Word was more important than being the woman who gave birth to the Savior.
Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus or anyone else direct any praise, glory, or adoration toward Mary. Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, praised Mary in Luke 1:42–44, but her praise is based on the blessing of giving birth to the Messiah. It was not based on any inherent glory in Mary. In fact, after this Mary spoke a song of praise to the Lord, extoling His mindfulness to those of humble state and His mercy and faithfulness (Luke 1:46–55). (What does the Bible say about the virgin Mary? | GotQuestions.org)
The Roman Catholic teachings on Mary are largely from outside of Scripture. As one historian noted, the veneration of Mary is virtually absent from church history until AD 250. She is not portrayed as a significant figure in the life of the early church as recorded in the Book of Acts. We don’t see the Apostles looking to her for guidance or her leading their efforts. None of that is a slight on Mary. She was a wonderful example and devout woman but the truth is, she was born a sinner like us all, she did not lead a sinless life, she bore other children after Jesus, she needed a savoir, and she died like all people and was buried. To teach otherwise is to stray from Scripture and make things up that Christ and the early church never taught.
I don’t have a written out history of the veneration of Mary. I can tell you that if you read through the writings of the early church fathers up to AD 250, you won’t get even a hint of Mary worship. The Roman Catholics and Orthodox like to point to a manuscript that is dated to about AD 250 and is anonymous that mentions praying to Mary. I can’t remember exactly what it says, but it calls her Mother of God. So it’s possible, even likely, that veneration of Mary began that early. In the second century, though … nothing.
(What Is the History of Mary Worship? (christian-history.org))
The Roman Catholic Church has elevated Mary to a place the Bible never did. She has been called a co-redemtrix and Catholics are encouraged to pray to her reasoning that a son will listen to his mother’s petitions. They cite Jesus turning the water into wine as an example of Jesus listening to His mother. Yet prayer is defined as a dialog between God and man. Attempts to contact the dead are expressly forbidden. Yes, they contend Mary never died but was assumed into heaven, but that doesn’t stop them from encouraging prayer to a litany of “saints” all of whom died regular deaths. Mary was a wonderful woman worthy of our admiration (not adoration or worship). Let’s stick to what Scripture teaches us about her and not all the made-up theology of the Roman Catholic Church concerning her.
Words of a Skeptic
“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?
Chakras: Fact or Fiction?
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.
How Old is Christianity?
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.
A Note on God and Science
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.
Quantum Physics and God
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…”
Where Does Our Hope Come From?
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.
The Olivet Discourse
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.
What Must I Do to Be Saved?
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.
Will the Church Go Through the Tribulation?
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.
Romans 13: Obey the Governing Authorities
Anyone living in the United States today knows we are in a political mess. Our nation is more polarized than it has been since perhaps the run up to the Civil War. We have two parties diametrically opposed . If one says black the other says white. They seem obsessed with opposing each other. Both parties was the “Holy Grail” of having the Presidency, the House, and the Senate under their control. Then they can push through all their legislative priorities.
Of course it rarely happens that all three line up under the same party and even when it does, the next time the other party has control they attempt to undo whatever the first party accomplished. The two parties are so gridlocked that increasingly our Presidents are resorting to executive orders to accomplish their goals. Rather than debate budget priorities, now the solution seems to be giving both sides whatever they want resulting in huge deficits.
Each party automatically opposes anything the other party proposes. At the very least they must find some fault with it they can correct and thus take partial credit. Politicians live for re-election and parties live to gain control. It now takes millions of dollars to get elected President requiring huge political organizations. Without the backing of a one of the two major parties, getting elected is nearly impossible. Unless you are a very rich person capable of funding your own campaign, it’s impossible. It takes more than money though. You need media consultants, political consultants, grass root workers, speech writers, and on and on. The two major parties have such people and tend to use them regularly so there are not a lot of people like that waiting to be employed. So while we have more than two parties, for all practical purposes we have just two.
Consider also that in Congress the majority leader of each legislative party gets to be the leader of that body. They are voted on by their own party. A minority leadership position is given to the minority party. What about members from other parties like independents? Bernie Sanders, while an Independent, still aligned himself with the Democratic Party each time he ran for President. He know as an Independent he could never fund and run a successful campaign. Our two-party system also results in each party nominating their most popular candidate to run in the general election. There is no chance for the public to choose among multiple Republicans or Democrats.
Countless hours and millions of dollars are wasted in each party opposing the other. Instead of accepting their have different visions and compromising to get things done, they dig their heels in and refuse to compromise except on minor issues or when forced to. Agreement between the parties seems like a pipe dream and the national debt just keeps piling up.
What should we do as Christians? Romans 13 tells us:
13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (ESV)
Some Christians have thrown themselves into politics and made it a personal crusade to support whomever they feel is most conducive to the Biblical worldview. While this is the right and privilege of every citizen we should remember Jeremiah 17:9 tells us:
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
Sinful hearts will never lead to perfect government. Until Christ reigns on earth, there will be corruption, strife, and disorder. While we should strive for good government we have to understand the limitations of human nature. Unless redeemed by God, man is foolish, willful, prideful, and corrupt. Yet we are still told to submit to the governing authorities as they are instituted by God.
The Pharisees tried to draw Jesus into politics hoping to trap him between the people and Rome. When asked about paying taxes, Jesus answered that they should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s. They had hoped if he told them taxes were unjust they could get him in trouble with the Roman authorities. If he told them to pay taxes they hoped the people would turn on him for being a “Roman lover.” Yet his answer disarmed them. As oppressive as Rome was on her subjects, Jesus never spoke out against Rome. Neither did the Apostle Paul who was in chains due to Roman justice. Their focus was always on saving souls not saving governments. Only by changing hearts could society change. Laws will never what the Spirit of God can.
The Supreme Court may change it’s make up and reverse former rulings but they do not determine truth. The Constitution was written over two decades ago and applying portions of it to today’s world leads to different interpretations. As justices retire, who replaces them is largely up to the President. The balance of power between conservative and liberal is ongoing. Justices are not ruling based on God’s Word.
We can’t and shouldn’t expect our government to save us. Nor should not despair if our government is corrupt. Our missions remains unchanged. We are to love the Lord our God, which all our heat, soul and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves. We are then to fulfill the Great Commission taking the gospel to the world. As citizens of this country, we should be informed and participate but not get distracted so much by politics that we forget our mission. We should not fear government but rather fear God who can throw both body and soul into everlasting fire. Rome did not last forever. Kings and rulers come and go. Only God is everlasting. Live not in fear and despair but in joyful expectation of the return of our Lord.
Let’s look a bit at the development of the church as seen in Scripture and history. Jesus died around 30 A.D. Starting about 30 years later, the Apostles and a few authors directly associated with them began writing what we know of as the New Testament. Their writings were circulated among the many fledgling churches scattered throughout the Mediterranean area. Copies were made. The early church, as recorded in the Book of Acts, largely met in people’s homes. A few got to use the facilities of Synagogues but Cathedrals and modern style church buildings were still centuries away. Scripture does not give us a blueprint for their gatherings. It only tells us what the major elements were. They sang hymns and spiritual songs, they prayed and worshipped, they were instructed from those early writings and the teaching of men who either were Apostles or trained by them. They also broke bread and remembered the Lord’s death and resurrection through communion.
There were no priests, choirs, mentions of incense, robes, specific prayers, the order of affairs, etc. No liturgy. Anything that was later added by churches as the “proper way to do things” was not described for us in the Bible. They are manmade traditions we’ve added and like all things must be judged by Scripture.
Scripture (the Bible) is the Word of God. It alone is God’s perfect revelation to man. While it was written by men, those men told us they were moved by the Holy Spirit to write what they wrote. It wasn’t something cultic like automatic writing but the Holy Spirit, using their vocabulary and writing style, guided them in writing each and every word. It’s true the formal declaration of what constituted the canon of Scripture (i.e. the official books) did not happen until much later, history tells us that the books chosen were universally recognized as meeting some important criteria. They had to be written by an Apostle or someone closely associated with an Apostle (e.g. Luke who traveled extensively with Paul). There had to be evidence they were widely accepted and changed lives. Through these and a few other criteria, it was obvious what belonged. This became the New Testament. Together with the Old Testament, It is our only source of revelation from God. It was understood that these writings were unique as were the men who wrote them. Future writings would have to be judged by these writings. They set the once and forever standard. No future writings or teachings could be added to them.
As the early church grew and spread, it continued to be guided by these early writings and Apostolic teaching. We have recorded one time when the Apostles met as a group with Paul to discuss a few matters Paul brought to them. Otherwise, the Apostles themselves eventually left Jerusalem and ministered in different places. There was no ongoing Apostolic council. There was no hierarchy, no single leader. The NT speaks of teachers, elders, and deacons. No mention is made of priests, bishops, cardinals, or a pope. No nuns or monks. No presbyteries, church committees, or denominations. There was no central authority except that of the Scriptures.
In the mid-300’s A.D., the Roman Emperor Charlemagne converted to Christianity. After centuries of persecution, Christianity finally had a patron in a position of power. The Emperor. This is when we start to see some formal organization beginning. Being Emperor of the vast Roman Empire required much delegation and organization. Charlemagne expected the same of the church. He wanted someone in Rome who could be his appointed head of the church so he had someone in a position of power to deal with. Thus was born the office of the Bishop of Rome. Prior to this, there were some learned teachers who were called Bishops in recognition of their gifts but not yet part of any larger organizational structure. It was more a title of honor.
We have some writings of these early church leaders that have survived. They are often collectively referred to as the Church Fathers. None of these men were Apostles or alive during the time of Christ. The earliest or their writings are from time after the Apostles were all gone. Much of their writings come hundreds of years later. While their writings are of great historical value to us, their writings are still the writings of men and not Scripture. Their writings were not chosen to be part of the NT. Jesus lived in an age where there were no recording devices. Spoken words had to be written down then copied. That is one of the reasons a criterion for writing to be part of the NT is that it had to be written by an Apostle or someone in direct contact with an Apostle. Any writing outside of that could not be trusted and had to be judged by those writings. Even today, with all our technology, we don’t have perfect or complete information about things that happened 100 – 200 years ago. There are elements of the story of the founding of the United States that are rumor and not verified fact. The Church Fathers were not writing Scripture. Their letters and other writings were their own thoughts and must be compared to Scripture. We are not free to consider their teachings on par with Scripture. Nothing is on par with Scripture. No subsequent teachings or writings. The Scriptures are the only revelation given by God for our instruction. All teachings must be based on them.
Over the centuries after Charlemagne this new Roman Church, led by the Bishop of Rome, began to expand its power and influence added many traditions and teachings not found in Scripture. While some were consistent with Scripture and allowable, others weren’t. Worse, some of these teachings and traditions were treated as equal to Scripture. Certain decisions and declarations made by this new Roman Church were considered church canon and carried the weight of the Scriptures. All the major teachings of the Roman Catholic church came into being after Charlemagne. Things like the mass, the office of the Pope, Papal infallibility, Mariology, etc. The seeds of some of these traditions may have existed earlier but were not practiced by the early church. Over centuries the Roman Catholic church claimed the authority to establish these things and declared them on par with Scripture but by what authority? They could not claim the authority of Scripture as they were adding to it. Their attempts to find support in Scripture have been contested by many and often are misinterpretations or insufficient. The fact that Peter made the summary statement when the Apostles met with Paul in Jerusalem is often cited as proof he was the early head of the church and thus the first Pope. Some claim Peter was the original organizer of the church in Jerusalem. Even if he was, that does not establish the office of the Pope. As the church scattered, some Apostles stayed primarily in Jerusalem while others made extensive missionary journeys. Naturally, they took on different roles. Paul was the leading missionary of the Apostles whereas Peter ministered more extensively in Jerusalem. Neither one was over the other. In fact, Paul later publicly called out Peter for his hypocritical behavior as recorded in Scripture. They were equals. The Apostles as a group were unique and never repeated but among them, there was no hierarchy. Scholars agree that for centuries the church had no overarching organization of leadership. No Pope can be found. It wasn’t for centuries that the Roman Catholic church sought to establish the office of the Pope and then tried to look back through history and claim a line of succession starting from Peter. Based on what? How good were their records to really know these men they were declaring Popes centuries later? Why is there no record of these men acting as some universal head of the church in their time?
We would do well at this juncture to remember what the “church” is. The church began on the day of Pentecost. Simply put, the church is the collection of believers across the world and throughout history. It is all those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus as their Lord in Savior. The church is not a building, an organization, or those who hold to certain interpretations of Scripture. While Charlemagne was establishing the Bishop of Rome (the forerunner to the Pope and one of the many titles for the Pope) the church already existed and had since the day of Pentecost. What we know as Roman Catholicism is a manmade institution created over time by those claiming authority and thereafter establishing their rule of what correct doctrine and practice should be. There has always been those outside of the Roman Catholic church that were still a part of the church. One did not have to come under the authority and practice of the Roman Catholic church to be a part of God’s church. Eventually, there was a great schism in the Roman Catholic church in 1054 which lead to the east-west split. Later, in the 15th century, the Protestant Reformation caused another schism. So which tradition is right? Is there an overall leader of the church? The answer is found in the Scriptures as it should be.
The church is all those who belong to Jesus. It is not a function of what local church or denomination they belong to. They are subject to no Pope or other ecclesiastical authority. Scripture only defines accountability to one another and to local elders. The Roman Catholic Church has priests leading their local churches across the world. Yet Biblically, Priests were unique to the OT and the Temple. They belonged to an era, pre-Christ, when man still needed representation before God in certain functions. The Book of Hebrews teaches that in Jesus the entire OT religious structure, including priests and the Temple, were done away with. Jesus became our new high priest. Scripture declares that there is now no intercessor between God and man except Jesus Christ. The Roman Catholic function of the priest came about in the 2nd century when some churches began to formalize communion feeling it ought to be administered by those holding a priestly office. This is not found in Scripture. As Paul established churches, he appointed elders who were put in charge of the church but did not give any teaching as to how communion was to be celebrated. The early church met in people’s homes. There were no priests presiding over these meetings or the celebration of communion. If only a priest can preside over communion (later called by the Roman Catholic church the Eucharist) then was the early church’s practice of celebration communion invalid? Over time, the role of the priest expanded to hearing confessions and granting absolution. After Christ freed us from the need for representation, man was reinstituting it. When Jesus died on the cross, Scripture tells us the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. This was a very thick curtain made from sewing many layers of material together. Tearing such a curtain in half would be like trying to tear a phone book in half a feat very few can do. It happened in an instant and not by the hand of man. Scripture tells us that the renting of that curtain represented the removal of the veil between God and man. We no longer need sacrifices, a Temple, or priests. We have direct access to God through Jesus. We can confess our sins to Him in prayer. Why do we want to go back to the OT and have to have others ministering on our behalf when we have been given the great freedom and blessing to go directly to God! The Jews were afraid to even say the name of God. They took the vowels out of Yahweh and abbreviated it so they would not speak His name. God was always approached very formally. Yet in the NT we are told we can call God “Abba” which means father or more intimately, daddy. We have been given a great privilege, why do we reject it and feel we have to go through others? We are trying to overlay OT ritual over the NT freedom we have in Christ. Jesus described the OT law as a yoke too hard to bear. He’s freed us from that yoke! Why do we want to put it back on?
If you want to see the church that began on the day of Pentecost, read the Book of Acts but keep in mind that for the birth of the church age, God gave signs and wonders and appointed Apostles. We see them planting churches, spreading the Good News, appointment elders and deacons to carry on the work, performing signs and wonders to give testimony to the Gospel and to their unique office, and then they fade from history except through their writings. As they left us so did the signs and wonders that accompanied them and so did the office of Apostle. Their work complete, they joined their Lord in heaven. Their writings became the NT and their pattern of evangelism and church planting was left for us to carry on.
Centuries later men started to add to the church things that are not found in Scripture claiming an authority only the Apostles had. They claimed their teachings were equal to those of the Apostles. This is nothing but the work of man claiming to be the work of God. This is why our faith and our worship must be grounded on Scripture. Many have come forward in the centuries since claiming new revelations from God. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed to have received revelation from God to restore the “gospel.” With no proof the Gospel was ever lost, he preceded to offer new teaching that was not in agreement with Scripture. He set himself up as a prophet and claimed new revelations. Sadly, he deceived many and continues to today although the deception is from Satan with Joseph Smith only being Satan’s tool. Countless cults have come and gone some in bloody endings. The Roman Catholic church continues on yet has been racked in recent years with terrible revelations of child abuse often hidden by the very church that claims to be God’s true church on earth.
The church is not an organization, a denomination, a building, or a local gathering. The church is all who have put their faith in trust in Jesus Christ and who worship in spirit and in truth. It is built upon the Word of God and the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God who died for our sins and rose on the third day and will come again to judge the living and the dead. We have direct access to the Throne of Grace through Jesus Christ. We don’t need priests or prophets or those claiming special anointings. We are called the children of God and saints. Not saints as invented by the Roman Catholic church but true saints – disciples of Jesus.
Jesus had barely returned to heaven when false teachers arose. Paul wrote extensively about the Judaizers and Gnostics and other false teachers. Satan loves to counterfeit the things of God to mislead us. Church history is full of such counterfeits. Scripture must be our rock, our foundation against which all things are tested and judged. Any human organization that claims to be the true church or is headed by someone claiming to be God’s representative speaks falsehood. If we build on anything but the solid rock of Jesus Christ as revealed through the Scriptures, we build on shifting sand and what we build will not last.