I figured I should write on this subject while the content is still somewhat fresh in my mind. We all really need to learn how to discern the truth from a wide array of information sources. I hope this will at least give people a general idea and awareness to supplement their knowledge of the Bible.
Everyone has dreams, and many people even claim to have visions or to have heard from God in some way. How are we to know if these dreams are reliable sources of information? Well, it first helps to concretely realize this fact: Dreams come from only three different sources: 1) our own subconscious, 2) God, and 3) demons. That’s it.
Most dreams probably come from within ourselves—sometimes deep within our subconscious. They are a jumble of past experiences, thoughts, and things we have sensed, felt, or feared. The next time you have a dream, try tracing its steps. When I do dream, I can often determine later why a certain person appeared in a certain setting or whatever. And don’t underestimate your own capacity for creativeness, especially when you are unrestricted in imagination. When you’re asleep, you’re not worried about things making sense or if a train of thought is strange or corny. You know how musicians claim to make better music when they’re on drugs? Well, it’s because they become unrestricted creatively. They are “freeing their minds” (although in a very dangerous and often destructive fashion). Likewise, with our conscious minds switched off, our thoughts can roam freely with fewer hindrances.
Those are dreams from a natural source. But sometimes, more rarely, dreams or visions can also come from supernatural sources. And determining where a dream came from is not as simple as people seem to think.
There seems to be a line of thought where if a person identifies him/herself as a Christian, then all those dreams must be from God. Those that receive demonic dreams must be unbelievers, they reason.
This is far from the truth, actually. As Christians, we are protected from certain kinds of demonic attack, but not all. For instance, we cannot be fully possessed and controlled by demons because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is far greater in power. But we can still be tempted and deceived if we are not vigilant and on guard—equipped with truth to combat the lies. Deception is by far the #1 tool of the enemy. Satan is not called the “Father of Lies” for nothing.
While demons cannot read our minds—because they are not omniscient like God—they can implant thoughts and ideas into our heads. And knowing what they themselves have implanted, they can know what you are thinking at certain moments. They are also keen observers who have been watching mankind since our inception, so they quite literally know us better than we know ourselves. We must never take them lightly (nor should we have an inordinate amount of fear paralyzing us from possessing a bold faith). Satan is smarter than all of us, so the only way we can hope to discern the truth is to study the Word of God and stay in prayer.
Remember: A genuine dream or communication from God will never, ever contradict scripture—nor will it add to it. God does not tell or empower anyone to “fix” or “update” His word.
Aside from blatantly contradicting scripture (which is a HUGE portion of Satan’s lies), there are certain signs that a dream or a “truth” is coming from a demon rather than God. This isn’t an exact science, of course, but this list has scriptural and theological support. Feel free to replace the word “dream” with a lot of other things, like “feeling,” “conviction,” etc…
– The dream tells you what you want to hear, even though you know it’s probably wrong. Satan likes to whisper sweet nothings in people’s ears, pushing them to do wrong by easing their conscience. He also tries to inject some Christian-sounding justifications for our wrong behavior to trick our gullible minds. (Satan knows the Bible, too, but his interpretation is always twisted.) You’ll notice that many of Satan’s lies are simply variations from the original granddaddy of them all: “[Go ahead and eat that fruit]…you will surely not die!”
Example #1: “Go ahead and marry that alcoholic, non-Christian, and volatile bad boy. You can do God’s work by converting him, and love can change people!”
See 2 Corinthians 6:14, which flat-out contradicts this. True, God can change anybody’s heart, but it’s a huge risk and an exception He makes purely out of grace. Even when we disobey, God can still show us kindness—but it’s still sin. Dangerously, more often than not, the unbeliever drags the believer down.
Example #2: “Sure Christians can regularly go clubbing and live a lifestyle close to sin. After all, how else will those lost souls be reached? Don’t be so prude and legalistic!”
God tells us to run far from sin, not dabble in it or toe the line. If God wants to bring a lost soul to Him, it can be accomplished in other ways. While efforts like prison ministry are valid because of the general lack of influence prisoners have on ministers there, a “clubbing ministry” or “partying ministry” would be highly suspect.
– The dream gives the recipient a sense of power and uniqueness that puffs up pride and self-worth. Again, there’s nothing new about this; pride is the original sin. Satan knows this, so he instructs his demons to find ways to make people feel special by giving them a false sense of purpose and power.
Example #1: “You are to lead up a new religion! God has specifically chosen you out of everyone else to show the error of Christianity to the world. Those Christians will try to tell you how you are plainly wrong according to scripture, but don’t you listen. ‘God’ is on your side, chosen one!'”
(You can pretty much substitute “new religion” with “atheism” and “God” with “logic”…the lie and the appeal to pride are the same.)
Many false religions probably began like this. While it is true that the church has often been corrupt and in need of reform, God would never revise His already-completed Word. While interpretation of the Bible has been botched for man’s selfish purposes, the words themselves have remained steady and true. Check your beliefs against the Word daily.
Example#2: “I, ‘God,” am now giving you the power to tell others what to do with their lives. They will line up at conferences and retreats to hear your wisdom. You are a modern prophet!”
Any time in the Bible that miracles or prophets are used by God, it is to facilitate a great movement of some kind—whether fulfilling a grand promise of God, stirring a nation to repentance, or validating the revelation of Jesus Christ as savior and Messiah. A person is never bestowed with divine power or knowledge to simply feel useful or even just to help people. Do you ever notice how such “prophets” seem to always tell everyone else that they are chosen to do “big things” for God? Plus, there’s a lot people can tell by looking at the eyes, so it’s not all supernatural.
If I went to those people with a mean look on my face, I might get the “God is telling me that you need to pray more” response rather than the “you are going to do big things for His kingdom.” Just maybe…or am I being way too cynical here?
– The dream communicates with someone from heaven or hell. The purpose of Satan tricking people into hearing from “the beyond” is usually to spread some kind of deception or to lure them away from relying on God as their source of truth. I am hard-pressed to find a single example from the Bible where anyone on earth successfully hears from someone in heaven or hell. Why would anyone in heaven or hell be interested in earth’s affairs?
Even when Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:14-31), that was a parable, not a real-life occurrence. There seems to be a practically impenetrable divide between our world and theirs, so be aware of this. The only one we can maybe hear from beyond is God, but that’s because He is God. Plus, He is omnipresent, so He’s present in this world anyway. (Please note: I am aware of the potentially sensitive content that is about to follow, but I think that people have shied away from this too much when people need to know the truth.)
Example #1: “Granny Smith came to me in a dream last night, and she told me that she is happy in heaven right now! That is such a relief because I was pretty sure she wasn’t even a Christian while she was living.”
I am convinced that Satan perpetrates this particular kind of lie very often to get people to alter their views on salvation and God’s standard. It tricks people into thinking that getting into heaven is easy, and all you need to do is basically be a “good person,” again contradicting the Bible and shifting the priority away from God’s sovereignty to human works.
Example #2: “An oracle told me that Uncle Bob is in heaven, and the guy was pretty nasty! I guess God’s grace really does cover all. I know the oracle was telling me the truth because she also mentioned Uncle Bob was sitting in his favorite polka-dotted couch, and how could anyone know about this??”
Again, same sort of lie, but this time it is bolstered with “evidence.” Of course, any demon who observed Uncle Bob for any amount of time on this earth could tell the oracle that. The oracle is speaking to a trickster demon, probably without even realizing it.
Example #3: “A pastor claims to be able to speak with people in the afterlife, and apparently, John Calvin is in hell pleading with us not to believe his theology!”
(A real-life pastor actually claimed to hear John Calvin warning us from hell. The person that told this to me did not necessarily believe it, but just mentioned it as an observation.)
Again, there is no reason to believe in speaking with those in the afterlife, so we can reasonably conclude that this is another demon trying to trick us. Since we know that deception is their main tool, we can pretty much believe the opposite. Calvin is almost certainly in heaven (we can only speculate, after all), and he was probably onto something that Satan didn’t like. By the way, don’t believe someone just because they hold the title of “pastor.” The world is rife with false teachers—even those who don’t realize they are misleading others; they can be nice people with good intentions. Being a pastor does not mean they have a good grasp of the Bible. Heck, Dan Barker went to seminary and he botches even basic elements of interpretation. I have a B.A. in Economics from a good university, but other than supply and demand and “sunk cost,” there’s not much else I remember.
What’s even more alarming from this example is that God explicitly mentions trying to call upon the dead as an abomination, and it was punishable by death (Deut. 18:11; 1 Chron. 10:13-14). Attempting to convene with the dead is basically inviting demons to mess with you. Believing these types of dreams can lead us dangerously astray as well. I fear for this pastor’s spiritual well-being. I might expect this from someone involved in the occult, but not a Christian.
*Please note that just because we dreamed about someone we love being in heaven, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false or demonic. It’s possible that we are piecing that together in our own subconscious and drawing upon our own memories and hopes for that person. It’s also possible that God may be comforting us with this knowledge, but it’s pretty unlikely. I don’t think we would be directly speaking to that individual in any case. If there appears to be an unmistakable supernatural element to it, then immediately be on guard.
**It is my guess/observation that the vast majority of people fall into one of two camps: 1) They believe in the afterlife and that communication between both worlds is possible, even common; and 2) there is no afterlife, and therefore, all supposed communication between both worlds is a trick or scam. My personal stance from reading the Bible is that there is an afterlife, but no communication between both worlds. If there is spiritual communication—whether from God or demons—it is done on earth and not through some invisible portal. If there were some kind of portal, only God would have the authority to use it anyway.
I think you’re starting to get the gist, and as you can probably surmise, these kinds of deceptions are not limited to dreams only. They could come as visions or even “moments of clarity” or revelation. Sometimes, I’m tempted to think that the words I write on this blog are coming almost directly from God, but I have to quickly check my pride. While I do think God can use me, nothing I write is infallible and should be checked against scripture.
The Bible trumps all other knowledge, and not every supernatural “feel-good” experience is from God. Let’s equip ourselves by studying the Word every day. If you don’t know the Bible, then you won’t know if something is contradicting it. Always remember Jesus’ exhortation to us all: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” — Matthew 10:16.
As always, mind and heart—not one or the other.
Well, you have to at least give the guy credit for (finally) owning up to his mistakes. I really thought he was going to hold fast to his false convictions until the end…
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed when studying prophecy, it’s that coming to any certain conclusions is tough. I guess that’s how God constructed it so that while watchful believers would see prophecies come true and believe more firmly, the rest of world would not deliberately try to thwart His plans. Believers should also continue to live dutifully in this world (see 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12) and not sit around counting down or anything…as tempting as that can be. As long as God is our primary purpose in life, we aren’t called to stand on rooftops holding up signs reading: “Come take us away, Jesus!”
We are to study these things and prepare spiritually (and perhaps take some practical measures as well), but we are not to date-set or tell people precisely how things will come to pass. For instance, we may know that there will soon be one world currency, utilized through the “mark of the beast,” but we shouldn’t boldly proclaim the nitty-gritty details. We don’t know if it will be a “666” blazoned across people’s foreheads (most assuredly not) or some microchip implanted in people’s hands. It could be something else that we don’t know of yet. Speculating is fine as long as we don’t push one possible way as the only way.
The ultimate example of prophetic difficulties, of course, is Jesus Christ himself. He was prophesied numerous times in the Old Testament, and the Jewish people thought they had a firm grasp of what to expect. For instance, the Jews were sure that the Son of Man coming on the clouds to reign in Daniel 7:13-14 showed their Messiah as an all-powerful ruler on earth. The 12 disciples themselves thought they were following this very man who would rise to the very top and stay there forever.
They were right…more or less. Jesus is certainly that “Son of Man” in Daniel 7. However, there was a wrinkle that no one really expected. They didn’t expect that Jesus would first be the suffering servant depicted in the Old Testament—see, for example, Isaiah 53 (they used to think that servant was symbolic for Israel, which actually doesn’t make a lot of sense if you read it with our present knowledge). So when Jesus was crucified and killed, the disciples were shocked and in disarray. They were so sure that Jesus would be a conquering hero, not a slain lamb. Only after seeing Jesus risen, post-crucifixion, did the disciples finally get it: Jesus would return as ruler of the world at his SECOND coming, after Daniel’s 70th prophetic week (see Daniel 9:24-27). Some of Jesus’ teachings, such as Matthew 24, only came into focus after the disciple’s shifted their expectations and were able to mold their ideas to the truth. Atheists, on the other hand, seem to fix their truths firm, and if something doesn’t conform to their thinking (or immediately “make sense”), they throw it out…but I digress.
I think a lot of present-day prophecy is like this. We come to conclusions, only to realize after the fact that there is something we didn’t take into consideration: an extra wrinkle or layer beyond the surface…
Don’t get me wrong, some signs are pretty blatant. While we need to be careful to avoid jumping to hasty conclusions—which I have admittedly done in the past somewhat—that doesn’t mean we should stop being watchful. Please don’t take the opposite extreme of living your life as the world does, thinking that nothing can be known or expected (see 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6). Take in what you hear with a grain of salt. Use discernment and prayerfully consider things. Sometimes our best efforts may not be good enough, but hopefully we’ll at least come close.
A few months ago, September seemed like it was shaping up to be a very important month. Now, it’s October, and not much has changed. What happened? Let’s dig in a little bit…
Israel and Palestine are still a ways off from a peace/sharing agreement.
We all knew that Palestine was going to submit its bid for statehood at the UN, which would end up splitting up Israel’s land (including Jerusalem…a big no-no in God’s eyes). We also heard about a rash of diplomatic efforts leading up to the general assembly, so it seemed possible that both sides could reach some sort of agreement. Both sides had something to lose, something to gain.
Instead, there seems to be a new deadline for a peace agreement between the two peoples: December 2012. Knowing the middle east, even that date might not mean much. Further delays are certainly possible. But that’s the latest information we have so far, and you can bet that they’re not going to rush to get peace talks finished far in advance. They will probably take as long as they can.
Remember that the peace agreement that starts the final seven-year period (Daniel’s “70th week”) must include some provision to share the holy grounds so that Israel can start rebuilding their temple.
Comet Elenin was a dud.
NASA told us that it was small and that it was pretty much fizzled out, but it still seemed possible. “Maybe there was something they didn’t account for.” It seemed that it got destroyed in transit. Whatever the case, there were no major earthquakes or natural disasters that seemed to correlate with the past alignments (Earth-Elenin-Sun). The coincidental timing around Rosh Hashanah ended up being just that: coincidental.
Rosh Hashanah and the “woman in the sky”
Considering that four of God’s redemptive acts matched up with the first four Jewish feasts, it seemed logical that the next major act of God would land at the same time as the fifth feast, Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets. In fact, Jesus’ second coming is often described as being accompanied with the sound of a trumpet.
To further add to the number of “coincidences” coming together, people talked about Revelation 12’s sign in the stars (if this is even a correct interpretation of the passage) happening this year during Rosh Hashanah. This doesn’t seem to happen often, so people started wondering if this was also significant.
Looking back, there are two major problems here:
1) I am still convinced that the next major redemptive move by God will happen during Rosh Hashanah (not sure which year, of course). But who’s to say that it has to be pre-Tribulation Rapture? Jesus’ second coming after the Great Tribulation (some people call it “post-trib rapture”) seems more probable as I study scripture and prophecy.
With a pre-trib view, the Rapture would probably fall during Rosh Hashanah (the fifth feast). The sixth feast, Yom Kippur, could represent the Tribulation, while the seventh and final feast could be either the millenial kingdom or the new heaven and new earth.
With a post-trib view, the second coming of Jesus Christ—which happens at the end of the Great Tribulation—could happen during Rosh Hashanah. Then, the millenial kingdom would be established, after which there is one final uprising from Satan and people on earth. This could be on Yom Kippur. Finally, when Satan is forever defeated and the new heaven/earth is established forever, that could be the seventh and final feast.
2) If you take Revelation to be chronological overall, which I do, the “woman clothed with the sun” sign this year didn’t really make sense. Why would something that appears in chapter 12 take place now? As I understand it, chapter 11 or so is the halfway point of the seven years, so the woman sign should be approximately 3.5 years after the peace agreement.
Here’s a breakdown of what time period the chapters might represent:
Chapter 1: The past
Chapters 2-3: The present (e.g., American Christianity—and others like it—may be represented by the church of Laodicea)
Chapters 4-5: Some people think the Rapture takes place here, while others think these chapters simply show God and the angels preparing for what’s to come.
Chapter 6-19: The seven-year period, also known as the Tribulation (though really, the “Great” Tribulation is probably only the last 3.5 years).
Chapter 20: After Jesus is victorious, the millenial kingdom is established.
Chapter 21: New heaven and new earth
By the way, the next time this sign in the sky will coincide with Rosh Hashanah? 2017, though it’s not even certain whether this is significant. There’s nothing in the Bible to indicate that this takes place during the Feast of Trumpets.
“This generation will not pass away”
While it’s true that fig trees are sometimes a metaphor for Israel in certain parts of the Bible (e.g., Jeremiah 24), it’s not clear that this applies to the Olivet Discourse, as found in passages like Matthew 24:34. Judging from the structure of the language, it’s not even apparent that Jesus is including the fig tree as part of His end time prophecies. It could simply be an analogy of watching for signs. Therefore, it’s not on solid ground to assume any sort of 70-year window after Israel was established as a nation in 1948.
So when will it happen?
Date setting is probably just a recipe for disappointment (or from the outside, mockery), so it’s imperative that we not get too attached to any particular timeframe. I need to keep myself in check as well! Personally, I’m kind of happy that it didn’t happen already. I want to do so much more for God’s kingdom before I leave, and if it had happened, I wouldn’t have much to show for my life. Perhaps more people can be saved during the wait.
It is important to be spiritually ready at all times and to keep an eye on current events. The only thing we can watch for, really, is the peace agreement. Whether that will indeed take place next year in December (I will refrain from drawing any connections with the whole Mayan calendar/2012 theory) is impossible to determine.
What is clear, however, is that things seem to be accelerating at a rapid rate. Various economies and governments are crumbling before our eyes, and everything seems to be moving toward a world government. Certain nations, like China, have already suggested that we move to one world currency. We have the technology in place to implement a worldwide tracking and commerce system. Peace seems somewhat possible between Israel and Palestine, and groups are ready to rebuild the Jewish temple.
The table is set, we’re just waiting for the steak.
Just wanted to share some stuff that I found/learned/thought of.
First off, an interesting quote from Mark Twain about the Jewish people from 1898:
"The Greeks and the Romans...are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out...the Jews saw them all, survived them all...all things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces passed, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"
The secret, Mr. Twain, is that they are God’s chosen race of people. They will never be wiped out—all the Holocausts and persecution in the world won’t overcome God’s ultimate plan for them. That’s why.
Anyhow, I learned some cool things about end times prophecy again. In Daniel 7, I always wondered what the four beasts could mean or represent. They include the lion with eagles’ wings, a bear, a four-headed leopard, and a beast with 10 horns.
Some people interpret these symbols in light of other scripture, but I tend to believe it cannot be done this way because in Daniel 12:9, God clearly tells him that the meaning of these visions cannot be known until the time of the end. Well, many people think we’re now in the time of the end (or approaching it), which means we should have a better understanding of the vision than was possible thousands of years ago.
One interpretation is that the lion represents England. Why? Because their national symbol is a lion, which represents royalty/monarchy. But why the eagle’s wings? Well, perhaps they represent another country whose symbol is an eagle. That would be, of course, the United States. Notice that in verse 4, the wings of the eagle are torn off and lifted off the ground, given an independent mind of its own. This could represent America breaking off from England and declaring its independence as a country. Another cool thing? This is in Daniel chapter 7 verse 4. It just happens to coincide with our U.S. Independence Day, 7/4.
The bear represents Russia, while the four-headed leopard represents Germany (which is in its Fourth Reich…also notice how it too has wings, but Daniel deliberately doesn’t mention an eagle or specific bird). The beast with 10 horns? Tough to say, but perhaps it’s something like the EU or UN. Tellingly, the little horn that speaks from it represents the Antichrist, which means that he will come from this symbolic beast. At least the other countries mentioned are in the clear somewhat.
Also, I thought it was fascinating how almost 2,000 years ago, John foresaw the Jewish temple being shared with foreigners to the land, or Gentiles. In Revelation 11, God instructs him to measure the temple of God and the altar, but he’s told to exclude the outer court. Why? Because “it has been given over to the Gentiles” (non-Jew) or “the nations.” In modern terms, we know that the Jewish people will eventually be able to rebuild their temple during the end times, but they will have to share the holy land with Gentiles; that is, the Muslims/Palestinians. Bill Clinton, during his presidency, worked to make peace in the Middle East by having them agree to share the land rather than fight over it. It has been an urgent, ongoing process ever since. I thought it was pretty cool how John saw it around 95 AD!
Finally, I was thinking in the shower (the best place to think) about a picture of salvation, and it’s kind of like this.
We’ve been falling in a bottomless pit since we were born into this world of sin. We just keep falling and falling. But next to us in this pit is a rope for us to grab. If we grab hold of it, we can start climbing upward and be saved from whatever lies at the bottom of the pit (if there even is an end to it…probably just a pit of fire). The problem is, there is a limited amount of time to grab the rope. Eventually, it will run out and the chance to grab it will be no more.
But why doesn’t everyone grab hold of it? Because many would rather fall. They reason to themselves, “I don’t even know where the rope leads. Who knows if it can even save me? So I might as well just enjoy the fall.” Others think, “I DO want to be saved! But grabbing that rope is going to hurt my hands…it’s going to burn for a while. And I don’t want to spend my life climbing and struggling. Maybe it’s just easier and more pleasant to just free fall and hope for the best.” Some people who are falling try to grab onto other things to save them or to bring them “meaning in life,” but they don’t realize right away that those things are falling right alongside them. They are not secure.
Now true, grabbing onto the rope might mean some initial pain and adjustment. Fighting gravity isn’t easy, and it might require you to give up some of the ease of life. But eventually, you’ll be glad you did, and what’s better is that the Holy Spirit is like a floating platform for your feet; He never allows you to fall, and He actually assists you in climbing upward, so it’s not nearly as hard as you once thought it would be.
One day, Jesus is going to come for us. He’s going to come on a helicopter (haha) and attach the rope to it from the top, then take us off to heaven. Whether you just grabbed on recently or if you’ve been climbing for years, we will all be saved. The people left falling in the pit will regret not grabbing on when they had the chance.
Once we get to heaven, God will hand out eternal rewards and mansions. The best selections will go to those who had climbed the highest and earned the greatest reward, while those who barely got in will wait patiently at the back of the line. But everyone will be glad and rejoice in the end, for all eternity.
One of Satan’s favorite tools is to take something that is true and wonderful and twist it ever so slightly to achieve his ends. Because the lie maintains the outward appearance of truth, people get sucked in easily and led to their own destruction.
I believe Islam is like that. It took a lot of the surface-level ideas from Christianity and the Bible, and altered them just enough to make the new lie convincing but deadly. Jesus was a powerful prophet who did miracles, but He is not the son of God (Islam claims). Jesus was captured and sentenced to death, but never was actually crucified. God made Adam and Eve, but not in His own image. Jesus Christ is coming back to rule the earth…but not alone.
Muslims claim someone will rule before Jesus Christ, and then alongside Him. This person is called the Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam.
How long will this Mahdi reign? Interpretations vary somewhat, but the most prevalent view is seven years.
Do we know of anyone else the Bible tells us will reign for seven years? That’s right, the Antichrist.
It is expected that Muslims will flock to this leader, thinking him to be their Mahdi—their prophesied redeemer. (Likewise, Jews will think it is their messiah—a powerful political leader—finally come to rule the world…at least for the first 3 1/2 years.)
What are some characteristics of this Mahdi?
Well, here are a pertinent few, according to Islam:
– He will fill the world with justice and fairness at a time when the world will be filled with oppression, which is war and calamities.
– He will rule for seven years as a fore-runner to Jesus’ Islamic Rule.
– His face shall shine upon the surface of the Moon. (See a video about a supposed Imam sighting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXpScktgvPE. Notice how they think he is a being of light.)
What do we know of the Antichrist from Bible prophecy?
– He will bring unity to the world in a time of war, famine, earthquakes, and economic distress…before demanding worship and dooming his followers to hell.
– He will rule the earth for seven years at a time called the Tribulation. Afterward, Jesus will come down to conquer.
– If the Antichrist is anything like his partner/boss, Satan, he will portray himself to be a wonderful person, even a being of light. Satan becomes an “angel of light” to deceive people (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Talk about fishy business here. It’s becoming incredibly obvious that Satan is going to use the fastest growing religion of Islam to achieve his ends. Very clever you are, Satan, but some of us are onto you.
(Holy Spirit protect me!)
Wait, what? Isn’t proving Christianity to be true by using the Bible completely circular? Not exactly. I’m only trying to show that more than any other religious book (or even secular book of antiquity), we have something special with regard to accuracy, reliability, and inspiration that cannot be adequately explained away.
Proving God exists can be done by other means. Proving the Bible is true necessarily validates Christianity to be true, as well…and for the purposes of knowing the whole truth that will lead to salvation, it’s necessary to take this extra step.
Let’s examine some aspects of the Bible that lend credibility to its divine nature. I cannot possibly delve into every topic in great detail and will even have to skip some, which may come in a later post.
Unlike other “holy” books that were typically written by one man based on supposed visions and enlightenment, the Bible is a collection of books/writings from 40 authors over almost 2,000 years.
A court of law or even common sense will tell you that multiple people agreeing on the truth of certain statements is more reliable than one person asserting something. Agreeing over a huge span of time? Well, there’s not much precedent for that, but I’d imagine it’s something to be impressed about.
Now, let’s put on our cynical caps for a minute here. Imagine you were a creative man with a knack for words and eloquent, high-sounding rhetoric. You also happen to like worldly things like wealth, power, and women. Would you try to write stories and teachings that fall exactly in line with Christian teaching and become author #41? Or would you perhaps try to establish a new religion of your own, becoming very influential, looked up to by followers, and enjoying the company of multiple women?
If you’re thinking that Jesus was essentially one of these people that established a new religion for gain, I’d beg to differ. Comparisons between Jesus and others (like Muhammad and Joseph Smith) fall woefully short. First of all, Jesus claimed to actually be God. He performed many miracles, including his own bodily resurrection as a way to prove this. Second, Jesus never opportunistically said that God’s word (at that time, essentially the Old Testament) had errors in it and that he came to correct it. He came to bring a new spiritual era, true, but only because he was God who can determine these things. Not only that, but he fell in line with dozens of Old Testament prophecies perfectly, but we’ll get to that later. So he clearly wasn’t contradictory at all. Finally, Jesus’ ministry lasted a mere three years. During that time, did he get to enjoy earthly benefits galore? No, not at all. In fact, he knew he was headed to his doom, but he had a mission to fulfill. He traveled tirelessly, faced persecution, lived a celibate life, and served wherever he went. He mingled with the poor and rejects of society, he helped those in need, and even showed us humility by washing his own followers’ feet. He then suffered excruciating physical pain, but more importantly, the intense torture of spiritual separation from God the Father on the cross.
Jesus, if he were a false teacher, had nothing of worldly value to gain. Another significant point to bring up is that Jesus did not author these books himself (at least in the practical sense). Instead, he lived a life worthy to be written about and worshiped. To me, actions speak louder than words, and that’s all those other books are…words of flawed and suspicious men.
Historical Accuracy and Archeology
If the Bible had historical errors in it, or things we can confirm as categorically false, it would admittedly cast a shadow over the entire book. What we have in reality is the opposite. Isn’t it fortunate (although not at all coincidental if you believe that God knows what he’s doing) that in the last 100 years, we have found more to confirm the history of the Bible than ever before? As the skepticism and self-“enlightenment” of people in the modern age casts the Bible in a dubious light, we are given enough to battle back and stand firm.
In the words of Pastor Lon Solomon, “the more they dig out of the ground, the more the Bible proves to be right.” If you want to hear a quick 30-minute sermon that covers a lot of the confirmations of the Bible’s claims, please listen to this: http://mcleanbible.org/media_player.asp?messageID=40403. In addition to seminary degrees and such, Lon Solomon also completed his masters in Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University, so this is kind of an area of expertise for him.
Every time skeptics have pointed out some supposed inaccuracy in the Bible, later evidence has validated the Bible’s claims, not those of the scholars. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to “wait and see” before the Bible proves to be right (in one case—a somewhat minor historical detail—it took about 1,800 years!).
Some skeptics in the past have brought up these objections to the Bible’s historical accuracy:
– “King David never existed! He was never even mentioned once outside of the Bible.” Well, I’m no expert in ancient history, but isn’t there a LOT of stuff that’s missing from the past? Does that mean that only the things we find could have been real? Either way, this is moot because archaeologists did eventually find clear evidence of a King David. Somehow, I have a feeling skeptics will find something else to complain about rather than giving any credit to the Bible…
– “How could Moses have written the Bible? There wasn’t even written language during those times (around 1600 BC?) in the Near East, only hieroglyphics!” There is now evidence showing that written language was in existence, even as far back as 3000 BC. Tons of clay tablets and such have since been unearthed, even regarding very mundane details and transactions. Surely, of all people, Moses would have been able to write having been raised in a royal home. (I actually saw this old objection posted recently on some Yahoo! answers page, so unfortunately, some falsehoods never die. Skeptics seem to recycle old, dead arguments over and over after a while.)
– “We don’t even know if Jesus ever existed as a real man, let alone as God. We can’t take the Bible as historically reliable, and secular sources haven’t corroborated Jesus’ existence.” This claim, to me, seems the most far-fetched and ridiculous of the lot. Jesus has got to be one of the most confirmed people of ancient history ever, especially considering the 2000 years that have passed (and it took almost that long for this objection to even be raised without being seen as completely stupid). We have tons of secular historians who have mentioned Jesus’ existence, such as Josephus, and archaeologists have even found the ossuary of James, on which it is written: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” I mean, how much more do we need to spell it out for you? This is also why I don’t even bother addressing the Christ-mythers out there, who talk about Horus, etc. Talk about people hungry for conspiracy theories.
The list could go on and on and on, but at some point, you have to give credit where it’s due. If you’re the overly suspicious type and you constantly try to catch your spouse in the act of cheating…only to come home early to her folding your laundry and lovingly preparing your food, you’re going to feel like a jerk for suspecting anything. Do that 100 times over, and eventually you have to stop questioning her loyalty and truthfulness.
OK, so what? The Bible could have taken real history and fit it in to make it seem more true. (I still find it impressive that even when we analyze some small detail, it checks out…even if it’s a detail the author might not have had knowledge of or access to otherwise.)
But how does that prove the Bible’s theological or supernatural claims are true? Well, some of that does take some faith, but it’s a myth to say that there is no proof whatsoever that the Bible is supernaturally inspired.
Prophecies in the Bible abound, and other than far-fetched conspiracy theorizing, there’s no way to explain them away. “I am God and there is no other. I declare from ancient times things that have not happened yet.” –Isaiah 46:10.
A few examples are as follows:
– Isaiah 13 talks very specifically about the fall of Babylon 200 years before it happens.
– The Book of Daniel (for example, chapter 2 or chapter 11) talks about 500 years of the history of the ancient Near East before it happened. Critics tried to say that the book was a forgery and these details were written in after the fact, but we now know that isn’t true thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls.
– Although many prophecies in the Old Testament were about Jesus, 30 of the most specific ones all came true (one person claims that the chance of a man matching up to these 30 prophecies by accident rather than divine inspiration would be one in 10 with 100 zeroes after it). As a great example, read Isaiah 53 and try to deny that it’s talking about Jesus, who would come centuries later. Chapter 9 of the Book of Daniel actually predicts the exact year of the messiah’s death…and guess who died that year? That’s right, Jesus. Hundreds of years after Daniel foretold it.
Again, critics might cast doubt onto the New Testament, but its books are the closest to the described events that we have ever found in ancient literature, being circulated around during the lifetimes of the people who witnessed the events firsthand. Even the most skeptic historians date the books of the New Testament to mere decades after the events (the next-best works of antiquity, such as Homer, are centuries after). But of course, it’s never enough for some people.
In a way, it’s understandable why the Bible is often faced with such heavy scrutiny. After all, it claims to be divine in nature and inspiration. Is it so surprising, then, that the Bible proves itself vastly more worthy than any other book of its kind (or time period)? It’s no wonder why so many world religions try to piggyback on this undeniably great book.
There comes a point when people can’t keep chalking things up to conspiracies or coincidence. When the obvious truth is so plain to see and we still refuse to see it, that’s clear evidence of our unwillingness to be open to the facts.
But what about all the inconsistencies in the Bible? Doesn’t that undermine its credibility? Well, first of all, on every theological point, there have been solutions offered. Some are easy and downright silly to keep bringing up (which skeptics will do anyway), and some are a bit more difficult, but they have all been addressed. Even when there is something historical or archaeological we can’t reconcile with what we know, we can trust that scholars and historians will catch up eventually. They have many times in the past, and it will probably happen again in the future. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but God has given us enough to work with here so that it doesn’t need to be some giant leap of faith, only a reasonable one. The more you know, the smaller that leap has to be, and not the other way around.
My wife and I were talking about this yesterday, and she asked a very thought-provoking question.
“Why would God need to know everything about the future to be considered omniscient?”
Hmm, good point. Omniscience could mean knowing all existing facts or everything that can be known, but it doesn’t speak to some kind of fortune-telling ability. Is it possible that God doesn’t know everything that will happen outside of his own plans? Is it possible that knowing the future and the existence of free will are in fact logically inconsistent?
Obviously, I started thinking about this more in depth as I addressed a list of supposed inconsistencies in Christianity a couple days ago. I’m going to need to go back and heavily revise my answers in light of my research…perhaps I was misguided.
Again, I have a weekend ahead of me to devote some serious time and study into this, but here are my preliminary conclusions:
– God knows certain plans he has for the future, such as judgment day. He knows these will happen because whatever God plans to do, he accomplishes. There is no chance of failure.
– God is omniscient, but this doesn’t necessarily entail that he knows every possible action and decision of free creatures. This is why “omniscience” (not to include knowing everything about the future) and free will are wholly compatible.
– God knows almost to a certainty what existing creatures will do in certain circumstances because he has seen their every past deed and heard their thoughts…but until it actually happens, there’s no logical way to know what a free-willed creature will do until that creature decides at that moment to do it.
Here’s a thought-provoking quote: “One is not ascribing ignorance to God by insisting that he doesn’t foreknow future free actions if indeed free actions do not exist to be known until free agents create them… Those who oppose the open view of God on the grounds that it compromises God’s omniscience are simply misguided.”
Wow, heavy stuff. I’m really starting to gain a deepened sense of awe and appreciation for this gift of free will. It’s not nearly as simple as we tend to think.
This would explain a whole lot if this pans out, but we’ll have to see. I’m definitely excited to see what happens! Hopefully, the scriptures can shed some light on this over the weekend.