Will There Be A Rapture?

One summer day I was swimming at Lake Manchester north of Ipswich many years ago. Near me on some rock cliffs were some kids who I gathered had a christian background from a comment that was made when some of the guys were trying to persuade a girl in the group to jump. One of them happened to say to her, “If you are lucky the rapture will occur when you jump off.” After hearing that I just couldn’t resist the temptation to jokingly say, “Yeah, it’ll be just like bungee jumping!”

When I was a teenager I read Hal Lindsay’s popular book “The Last Great Planet Earth”. I got quite excited and was convinced by his arguments that there was going to be a secret rapture of christians to heaven at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. I was so excited and convinced by it that I even tried to convince an office staff member of the church behind the Plain Truth magazine that I was learning much from at the time when I called to order some literature. The person from their office was polite and offered to send me some of their own literature on the subject. To my surprise and chagrin, the literature highlighted a number of scriptures that made me look at the subject in a different light.

This doctrine is very popular with evangelical churches and has been made very popular by the Left Behind movie series. Just what does the Bible say on this topic?

Well, there are a few key Bible passages used in relation to this subject. Let’s take a look at what each of them has to say and compare these verses. The first scripture usually quoted to support the rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 which says:

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

The words “caught up” are translated from the Greek word “harpazo”. When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin in the 4th century he used the Latin word rapture. Some say this word means to be taken up suddenly, without warning, to be in heaven with Jesus. The expression caught up suddenly is a correct translation but it can just as easily refer to the first resurrection at Christ’s visible second coming. By and of itself, it does not prove that there is a pre-Tribulation rapture.

A very important thing to note about 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is that the time period for this is not given. The Greek word for “meet” is “apentesis”. One source has the following comments about this word:

 

Apantēsis (Strong’s Greek 529) is a technical term that refers specifically to the practice of sending a delegation outside the city walls and gates to receive a dignitary who was coming. This was the practice when a king and his army were returning from war. All the people would pour forth from the city gates and welcome them with pomp and circumstance. The people would meet them outside and then usher them back into the city with shouts of joy and acclamation.

W.E. Vines says ‘It is used in the papyri of a newly arriving magistrate. It seems that the special idea of the word was the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary.’” (http://kingdomstudies. blogspot.com.au/2009/07/apantesis.html)

 

This appears to give more support to christians meeting Jesus in the air and returning with Him to this earth at His visible second coming to the Mount of Olives than it does to a secret coming of Christ to take His followers to heaven and avoid the horrors of the Great Tribulation. Adventist writer Steve Wohlberg says this about 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:


Left Behind
describes this event as silent and secret, yet doesn’t it seem rather loud and visible? There is a shout, a voice, and a trumpet. Have you ever heard of a silent trumpet? Some people have even called 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the noisiest verse in the Bible! (The Left Behind Deception, p.22)

 

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 also discusses the same resurrection that 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 talks about. What can we learn here about when the resurrection is and if this proves the rapture? It says:

“Behold, I speak a mystery to you; we shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in a glance of an eye, at the last trumpet. For a trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

This mystery to many is the rapture. The dead are raised first just like in 1 Thessalonians 4 before the rest who are alive and in both verses trumpets sound. Unlike 1 Thessalonians 4, in this passage in 1 Corinthians 15 we are told the time period. It says that the resurrection occurs at the “LAST TRUMPET”!

The sequence of the Great Tribulation in the Book of Revelation is seven seals and then the seventh seal opens up the seven trumpets. At the seventh and LAST trumpet the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord (Revelation 11:15) and this last trumpet occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation, not before.

Those who support the rapture do not believe that this last trumpet is one and the same as the seventh trumpet of the Book of Revelation. There is some truth to what they propose it could be. The last trumpet is a Hebrew idiom for the Feast of Trumpets (which the Jews today refer to as Rosh Hashanah). Trumpets were blown leading up to this feast culminating in the trumpets blown on that day. The resurrection will occur on either the seventh trumpet of Revelation or the Feast of Trumpets or perhaps even both! Let’s go now to our next scripture for more detail.

Revelation 11:15-18 tells us: “And the seventh angel sounded. And there were great voices in Heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ. And He will reign forever and ever… The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints.”

So here we are at the end of the Great Tribulation at the seventh and last trumpet when Christ’s rule begins. Only now at the end of the Great Tribulation are we told that the saints are rewarded. If the saints have already been in heaven during the Great Tribulation wouldn’t they have already received their reward?

Matthew 24:30-31 tells us: “And then the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the heavens. And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

Notice some key points and comparisons with our previous verses we have looked at. Like 1 Thessalonians 4 we see Christ in the clouds, there’s a great trumpet and a gathering of the saints. In this passage we are specifically told that all peoples will SEE Christ in the clouds and FOLLOWING that we read about the resurrection of the saints. The chart below compares the details of these four passages we have examined so far.

There is one other passage used by supporters of the rapture and that is John 14:1-3 which says: “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, so that where I am, you may be also.”

Are these mansions or places, as rendered in other translations, some hiding spot in heaven during the Great Tribulation? Ray Vander Laan in a Focus on the Family DVD shot on a tour of Israel called “Faith Lessons on the Life and Ministry of the Messiah” explained that this passage is drawing on bridal imagery from a Jewish wedding.

What would happen when a man married a girl is generally they wouldn’t go off to some different location from their parents. They would build another house attached to the house of the man’s parents. A man would pick out a bride. He would then negotiate a bride price with the bride’s father. They would exchange a glass of wine to seal the deal and then the man would go to His father’s place and build a new house or unit next to his father’s place. This might take many months but the bridegroom would come back for the one he loves. Jesus is coming back for His church that He loves and they will be together always after His second coming. It’s not referring to a rapture.

There is one clear passage that does talk about how God will protect His church during the Great Tribulation. We find it in Revelation 12:14-17 where we read:

“And two wings of a great eagle were given to the woman, so that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time [that is, 3 ½ years], from the serpent’s face. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a flood after the woman, so that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. And the earth helped the woman. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged over the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Some people believe that the woman spoken of here is the nation of Israel since we are told in Revelation 12:5 that she gave birth to Christ. In a sense this is true, however, Paul refers to the church in the New Testament era as the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). The rest of the woman’s seed is referred to those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ. This is clearly not the Israeli nation but the church. The woman is protected and nourished by God in a wilderness area on earth, not in heaven! Jesus Christ even gave us warnings about NOT believing people who will say that He will come back secretly in Matthew 24:26-27!

Not all christians will have this protection mentioned in Revelation 12. Christ promises those who are wholehearted in their devotion to Him and His work: “Because you have kept the Word of My patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which will come upon all the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10).

Not all in God’s church will be on the ball spiritually and some will not go to this place of safety God prepares for His church. The Great Tribulation, no doubt, will shake loose the complacency of many christians in this situation. Some will even lose their life in martyrdom for their faith which is the prophesied fifth seal of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 6:9-11).

Luke 21:36 encourages us to be close to God and living His way wholeheartedly. In that verse Jesus said: “Watch therefore, praying always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things which shall occur, and to stand before the Son of Man.”


Will A Third Temple Be Built In Jerusalem?

The Middle East is a hotspot of violence in this world. Often in the news is the ongoing struggle between the Jews and the Palestinians for control of the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Many orthodox Jews are very eager to build another Jewish Temple in Jerusalem but feel thwarted by the presence of the Dome of the Rock which the Jews claim is the spot where Solomon’s Temple once stood and is the only place any future Temple can be built upon.

Jesus spoke about a future abomination of desolation and there are prophecies in the Old and New Testaments that speak about sacrifices and a Temple in an end time context. So, just what does the Bible say? Will the Jews rebuild another Temple in Jerusalem in our day?

Daniel 11 is a series of prophecies that span the time from Daniel right through to the time of the end and Jesus Christ’s second coming. In verse 31 we read: “And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and place there the abomination of desolation.”

Most Bible scholars are in agreement that this verse speaks about the events of the time of the Maccabees, the Jewish leaders who rose up against the Greek Seleucid ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus sent troops to Judea in 167 B.C and they defiled the temple and its sanctuary and removed the daily sacrifices until the Maccabees gained Jewish independence. Antiochus set up an image of Jupiter directly on the altar of the temple thus defiling it and further alienated the Jews by offering a pig upon the altar.

In Matthew 24:15-16 we read: “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

Now there was an abomination of desolation in the time of Antiochus yet Jesus said that when you see [future tense not past tense] the abomination of desolation – so, a second fulfillment was to occur after Christ’s first coming. When Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD they did not set up an idol and they destroyed the Temple so it seems to indicate a yet future fulfillment. The reference to the abomination of desolation and the sacrifices being taken away in Daniel 12:11 is in the context of other end time prophecies.

Jesus said that the abomination would stand in the holy place. The phrase “holy place” where Jesus says it stands is used almost exclusively for the part of the Temple that only priests could enter into and sometimes used for the holy of holies like in Hebrews 9 which strongly indicates in future that either a tabernacle or a full Temple will be built.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 we read: “Let not anyone deceive you by any means. For that Day shall not come unless there first comes a falling away, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself forth, that he is God.”

The Temple is often a symbol of the church in the New Testament. If this man of sin is the false prophet of the Book of Revelation and if this Temple is a physical Temple and not a metaphor of the church this would indicate an end-time Temple will be built.

I have made a number of conditional statements in relation to those prophecies so one must be careful not to be dogmatic but the balance of evidence does seem to favour a literal end time Temple being built, that sacrifices will be started again by the Jews and then later stopped by the power referred to as the king of the North in Daniel 11.

Regarding the Temple Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:2 that no stone would be left on one another. He also said in Luke 19:42-44 regarding the destruction of Jerusalem 40 years later by the Romans:

“For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you [Jerusalem] one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

This is confirmed by Josephus quoting the words of the commander of Masada in 73 AD:

Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing left but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those [Romans] that destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins…

I cannot but wish that we had all died before we had seen that holy city demolished by the hands of our enemies, or the foundations of our holy temple dug up, after so profane a manner (Wars of the Jews VII.8, 7 – Temples, p.29).

 

The massive stone platform that the Dome of the Rock sits on today is an impressive site when viewed from the Mount of Olives. The lower stones of that platform are universally agreed to have been built by Herod the Great. The generally accepted belief that on that stone platform was where the Temple stood stands is in direct contradiction with Jesus’ prophecies and what Josephus records about the Temple being dug up to its foundation.

The Roman historian Tacitus further adds to this contradiction as he wrote that the Jewish Temple in his day “contained an inexhaustible spring” (Tacitus, History, V, 12). The only spring in Jerusalem is 200 metres south of the Dome of the Rock at the Gihon Spring where Hezekiah’s tunnel begins.

What if the Jewish authorities also saw this contradiction between what Josephus and Tacitus wrote and the commonly accepted belief of where the Temple stood? Might this give the Jews the freedom to build another Temple without having to touch the Dome of the Rock?

Many Orthodox Jews have also been preparing implements for use in the next Temple. 1 Kings 6:7 notes that the stones of the Temple were all cut and shaped off site so no hammering or cutting was heard on the site. In theory, the stones of the next Temple could also be prefabricated right now which could speed up the building of any future Temple.

Jerusalem is very much a focal point of prophecy and knowing the general time and season of when the Messiah will return and we should continue to keep a close eye on what goes in Jerusalem.


Age of the Earth – 6000 Years or Much Older? (Part 1)

creation

The first time that I found myself in a discussion over how old the Earth is according to the Bible was when I was a teenager and a Protestant minister was giving a religious instruction class at the high school that I was attending.

I grew up a Catholic but never had read the Bible. My understanding of the Bible was limited to what I learned from Bible movies and from what I learned in primary school when one of my teachers would start the day with reading a chapter from a Children’s Bible. I had a healthy respect for the Bible’s history back to about Abraham but before then I felt that, while there were moral lessons that could be drawn from them, the stories before that were mythical.

My religious instruction teacher made a comment that the Bible says that the earth and universe was only 6000 years old. I had a keen interest in astronomy so I objected to this and said that the vast majority of stars are well over 6000 light years away and there’s no way we could see them if the universe was only 6000 years old because there wouldn’t have been enough time for their light to reach us.

My religious instruction teacher went on to say something about a time dilation theory as a workaround to this problem but, to me, it didn’t quite make sense that we were in a some sort of time bubble, outside of which, time was running millions of times faster for the rest of the entire universe. At this stage, I couldn’t honestly say that I had studied the Bible to see what it actually said about this subject.

Not long after this I started to read a magazine called the Plain Truth and was convicted by many of the doctrines that it addressed. When it started talking about Adam and Eve clearly as historical figures the credibility of the Bible came into question for me if the Bible said that the earth and universe was only 6000 years old.

I then went back over that first Plain Truth I picked up from a newsstand and found an article called “For Evolutionists Only…” which discussed what they felt was a common misinterpretation in the first chapter of Genesis by both creationists and evolutionists. In the article the author wrote:

Where most “creationists” err is that they assume the Bible places the creation of the universe at a point in time about six or so thousand years ago. The Bible, however, says nothing about such an idea. Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Those words describe a complete episode in the prehistory of the universe. There follows a time lapse of indefinite length between this verse and the verse that follows…

As verse two of Genesis 1 opens, we are confronted with a totally different scene. We now see an earth that had come to be in ruins, in darkness and covered with water. Some great disaster had befallen the earth.

The English word was in this verse is better translated “became” or “came to be.” “Now the earth became without form, and void; and darkness came to be upon the face of the deep.” (See the New International Version rendering and footnote)…

From verse two the Genesis account goes on to describe a re-creation, how God reshaped and refashioned, nearly 6,000 years ago, the already existing, but now desolate earth (Plain Truth, Nov-Dec 1983, Clayton Steep, p.19).

I read that and thought, “Hey, that makes a whole lot of sense!” It seemed to reconcile what the Bible says and what astronomy and geology says about how old the Earth is. It also raises the question of what caused this destruction between verses 1 and 2. There would be further challenges regarding this subject as I learned about a couple of other verses which seemed to say the opposite.

As I began to study the Bible it was very clear, without any shadow of doubt, from the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 10 and the genealogies of Jesus Christ in the gospels that the Bible says that Adam and Eve were created around 6000 years ago. Scientists say that mankind is a million or so years old using inexact dating methods which allows for the possibility of error. Recorded verifiable history, though, is no older than what the Bible says.

Jesus Christ quoted the Garden of Eden story in Matthew 19:4-5 when He spoke about marriage and two becoming one flesh. He acknowledged the real existence of Adam’s first son, Abel, who was murdered (Matthew 23:35). Adam is included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Luke 3:38) and the apostle Paul spoke of Adam as a real person (1 Corinthians 15:45).

How could I believe Christ was my Saviour if He was lying about Adam and his son Abel being real people?

For the remainder of part one of this blog I’d like to explore the pros and cons of the three main verses that are used in the debate between those who believe in a young earth and universe and those who believe in the “gap theory” or gap viewpoint as put forth in the magazine I quoted from earlier. In part two we will look at the pros and cons of several other verses in the Bible that relate to this question of how old the Bible says the earth and universe are.

Genesis 1:2 in most translations says “And the earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep”. Arthur Custance in his book “Without Form and Void” says the following:

In the Masoretic Text in which the Jewish scholars tried to incorporate enough ‘indicators’ to guide the reader as to correct punctuation there is one small mark which is technically known as Rebhia, …In short, this mark indicates a “break” in the text. Such a mark appears at the end of Genesis 1.1….It is one indication among others, that the initial waw which introduces verse 2 should be rendered “but” rather than “and”, a dis-junctive rather than a con-junctive (p.5).

According to Custance, verse two should read “But the earth became without form and void”. If “but” is the way it should begin then clearly something happened in opposition to God’s original design in verse one.

Next, we need to find out whether the Hebrew word “hayah” in verse 2 should be translated as “was” or “became”. If it should read “the earth was without form and void” neither case for a young earth nor old earth is affected. If, however, it should be translated “the earth became without form and void” this greatly hurts the case for a young earth.

On this point the evidence is divided. According to the KJV Old Testament Lexicon “hayah” means “was, come to pass, came, has been, happened, become, pertained, better for thee”. This word is translated “became” in Genesis 2:7 [and man became a living soul] , Genesis 9:15 [the waters shall never become a flood to destroy all flesh] and Genesis 19:26 [she became a pillar of salt]. There are also other instances where it is better translated “was” such as Genesis 3:1 [Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field].  This same word “hayah” is also used in God’s famous reply to Moses as to what His name is when He said “I AM [Heb: hayah] that I AM [Heb: hayah]”.

Genesis 1:16 is one of two pivotal verses used to support the young earth and universe viewpoint. On day four of Creation week it says: “And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day and the smaller light to rule the night, and the stars also.”

Young earth creationists say on day four God created our sun, the moon and all the stars in the universe. Before we look at the Hebrew word translated “made” there are a couple of other things to question that viewpoint. While God is all-powerful and can do it, doesn’t it seem a little unbalanced that God would fashion the earth on 5 of the 6 days of creation but do the infinitely greater universe in just one day? Another point is, if God didn’t create our sun until day four then what was the light He used on day one when He said “Let there be light”?  The KJV Commentary offers the following possible answer to the dilemma:

“This light is not the sun, which was created on the fourth day according to verse 16, it must have been some fixed light source outside the earth [The one referred to by God’s words “Let there be light.”] In reference to that light, the rotating earth passed through a day-night cycle.”

Now let’s look at the Hebrew word translated “made” in Genesis 1:16. The Hebrew “bara” is used for create in Genesis 1:1. A different Hebrew word, “asah”, is used in Genesis 1:16.  While it can be correctly translated as “made” in the present tense, it can also be correctly translated as “had made” in the past tense. In Genesis 1:31 we read “And God saw everything that He had made [Heb: asah], and behold, it was very good.” Strong’s Concordance also notes that one possible meaning for “asah” is “appoint” or “appointed”. This meaning would fit well in Genesis 1:16.

This same Hebrew word “asah” (not “bara” for create) is used for made in the next proof text used by young earth creationists.

In Exodus 20:11 where God gives the Ten Commandments and spells out the fourth commandment, the sabbath, we read “For in six days the Lord made [Heb: asah] the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.”

According to the Blue Letter Bible Lexicon this is how the Hebrew “asah” is translated in the King James Version:

“The KJV translates Strong’s H6213 in the following manner: do (1,333x), make (653x), wrought (52x), deal (52x), commit (49x), offer (49x), execute (48x), keep (48x), shew (43x), prepare (37x), work (29x), do so (21x), perform (18x), get (14x), dress (13x), maker (13x), maintain (7x), misc (154x).”

Some other synonyms that it can be translated into according to Strong’s Concordance include “bring forth”, “fashion”, “furnish” and “prepare”. The Hebrew “bara” used in Genesis 1:1 is used for create as in creating something from scratch. The Hebrew “asah” translated as “made” has a much more broader meaning.

If I say that I have “made my bed” does it mean that I have built it from scratch? We can “fashion” or “prepare” our house for a guest arriving but that does not mean we have just created or built it from scratch. Our English word “made” doesn’t always mean create from scratch just as “asah” doesn’t always mean create from scratch either.

The Hebrew “shameh” is translated as “heaven” (NKJV) in Exodus 20:11. While it is translated more often as heaven it also translated as sky or air in Genesis 1:20, 1.26, 1:28 and 1:30 in reference to the birds in the sky. If we paraphrase Exodus 20:11 with what we have learned about the Hebrew words it can just as easily be translated the following way:

“For in six days the LORD prepared (or fashioned) the sky and the earth, the sea and all things in it.”

We’ve looked at the three key scriptures used in this discussion over the age of the earth and the universe. If we are truly honest with those scriptures we can find support for either a young earth or old earth position in each of those. By and of themselves, if we are really honest, there is not enough evidence to nail the case one way or the other. We need to look carefully at more scriptures to shed further light on this question of how old the earth is according the Bible. In part two of this blog, we’ll look at several more scriptures used by supporters of both positions and see if we can come to a definitive answer.


Age of the Earth – 6000 Years or Much Older? (Part 2)

creation

In part one of this blog we looked at the pros and cons of three key scriptures used in this discussion over the age of the earth and the universe – Genesis 1:2, Genesis 1:16 and Exodus 20:11. My conclusion was that, by and of themselves, if we are really honest, there is not enough evidence to nail the case one way or the other and that we need to look carefully at more scriptures to shed further light on this question.

In this part two we’ll look at several more scriptures used by supporters of both positions and see if we can come to a definitive answer. Before we do, I’d like to briefly go back to the young earth/universe creation dilemma about how we can see stars from galaxies millions of light years from us if the universe is only 6 000 years old?

In part one of this blog I mentioned time dilation as one workaround proposed by young earth/universe creationists. Others claim that the speed of light has been decreasing since creation. If so, the laws of physics would demand that the speed of light be many MILLIONS of times faster in the past than its already incredible speed to account for us seeing those stars.

Another view is that God has miraculously transported to us the light of all these far off galaxies. The main objection to this idea is that we are seeing events happening in “real time” with very distant stars. One example is the many nova and supernova explosions that have been observed in “real time”.

The Crab Nebula was created as a result of a supernova witnessed and recorded by Chinese astronomers in the 1300’s. The Crab Nebula has been accurately measured by astronomers to be 6500 light years away. To this figure we have to add 700 since the supernova happened that many years ago. This means that the supernova occurred 7200 years ago. Another recent supernova witnessed as it happened is that of 1987A which went supernova in 1987. This one is far more distant. It has been measured at 185 000 light years away.

Romans 5:12 is one verse used by young earth creationists to say that there wasn’t a world before creation week and that all fossils date from Adam on. The verse is used as a proof text to say that there was no death before Adam, including any animal deaths in the fossil record. The verse says:

“Therefore, even as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed on all men inasmuch as all sinned.”

1 Corinthians 15:21 says a similar thing. Does this rule out all death, BOTH human and animal, prior to Adam?

Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. Animals operate by pre-programmed behaviour and instinct, not choice in the same way that humans choose their behaviour for good or evil (that is, sin). The death being spoken of is not animal sin but human death earned as the punishment for sin.

God never designed animals to live forever. There still would have been animals dying even if Adam had not sinned. Their death is not a result of sin but by design, being only made as temporary creatures.

Job 40:15-24 is another passage used by young earth creationists to support their view that all the dinosaurs lived in the time of man before Noah’s flood and not before Adam. They say the behemoth with its massive tree-like tail is a dinosaur. This is a red herring. Assuming this beast was a dinosaur it only proves that at least one type of dinosaur lived in the time of man. It does not disprove that they existed before Adam.

Psalm 104:30 is one verse used to support the view that Creation week was a restoration of the earth after a previous destruction. It says “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth.”

The Hebrew word used for “renew” is “chadash” which means “rebuild, renew, repair” according to Strong’s Concordance which definitely fits a restoration rather than original creation. Verses 5, 19 and 20 speak of events during the creation week implying that time period for this renewal.

Hebrews 11:3 is a particularly interesting verse in relation to this subject. It reads: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God”.

The word translated here as “framed” is an interesting one. It is the Greek word “katartizo”. Let’s look at two other places where it is used in the New Testament. In Galatians 6:1 we read: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore [Greek: katartizo] at such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

Another place where it is used is Matthew 4:21 where we read: “Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending [Greek: katartizo] their nets.” Now if we paraphrase Hebrews 11:3 with these other possible translations it would read as follows:

“By faith we understand that the world was restored / mended by the word of God”.

These last two verses do give support to the gap viewpoint but there is still some doubt. Let’s now look at a critical verse in this discussion that answers the question of how the earth “became” waste and void if the gap viewpoint is correct.

Isaiah 14:12-14 is almost universally understood by Bible scholars, both young earth creationists and those who believe in the gap viewpoint, as referring to the fall of the archangel Lucifer who turned on God being filled with pride and became Satan the Devil, the great adversary of God and inspiration for Darth Vader, only a whole lot nastier.

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High”.

There are two key points to note here regarding the rebellion of Lucifer (Hebrew: Heyl-el). First, he was given a throne and a dominion to rule and second, he was below the clouds before he ascended and tried to unseat God “on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north”.

As an aside, this location of God’s throne is echoed in many pagan religions which have borrowed this concept. Pagan gods such as Ra, Shamash, Kronos and Saturn were also said to dwell there (The Tree at the Navel of the Earth, E.A.S. Butterworth & Paradise Found, William F. Warren). This is also why Santa supposedly comes from the North Pole as many Christmas customs originate from the Roman festival, Saturnalia.

Lucifer was given a throne and dominion. He was below the clouds, which are only found on physical planets, when he rebelled against God. Satan’s rebellion could not have happened before the earth was created because he was on earth when he rebelled.

It makes little sense he was given this throne at the time of Creation week since the same dominion over earth was given to Adam (Genesis 1:26). Not only that, Adam and Eve’s Creator, was on earth mentoring them prior to their sin in the Garden so what would be the point of giving Satan a throne here on earth after the start of Creation week?

John 8:44 says “He (Satan the Devil) was a murderer from the beginning”. This beginning appears to be no later than Creation week. This runs counter to what Genesis 1:31 says that God pronounced everything very good after His week of creation.

Satan has already rebelled and is evil when he tempts Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Most Bible scholars believe that Lucifer took a third of the angels with him in his great rebellion (Revelation 12:3-9) and there are at least 100 million angels (Daniel 7:9-10, Revelation 5:11).  If the earth was only 6000 years old we are led to believe that Satan not only became dissatisfied and rebelled but also poisoned the hearts of OVER 30 MILLION angels all within a very short space of time before Adam and Eve’s sin.

This seems highly unlikely to me. It is more logical to believe that God gave him his throne and authority on earth in the time before Adam and that it was Satan’s rebellion and destruction that caused the earth to become “without form (or waste) and void”.

An earth age of undefined length prior to the “re-creation week” would also reconcile with the laws of physics that tell us we shouldn’t even being seeing the light of galaxies millions of light years away if the earth and universe was only 6000 years old.

It is my personal conclusion that there is more evidence in the scriptural record for an earth age  before the week man was created and that this is the time period in which Satan was given his throne and authority and ultimately the age in which he rebelled against God. His anger against God was manifested in destruction to this planet which God cleaned up and began a new creation 6000 years ago culminating in creating man “in His own image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26), the start of a marvellous plan to reproduce His own kind.


Why Catholics Eat Fish on Good Friday and Other Easter Customs

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I grew up a Catholic and my mother was always insistent that on Good Friday we would have fish and chips for dinner that night. When I questioned her as a kid and asked her why, her answer was that Jesus didn’t eat meat on Good Friday and so we eat fish to commemorate that.

My logical mind kicked into gear and I thought “What?” I knew enough about the story of Good Friday and Easter to know Jesus was being held against His will and crucified on that last day so that’s why He didn’t eat red meat but why would we eat fish instead? What has fish got to do with Good Friday?

I remember in religious instruction class at school asking what rabbits and eggs have to do with the story of Jesus’ death failing to see any connection between the two. Maybe you have had similar questions like how could there be three days and three nights between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning between when Jesus died and rose again from the grave? And where does the very name of Easter itself come from?

Notice these remarkably frank statements that come from the Catholic Encyclopedia in its article on Easter about the origins of Easter and its customs:

Because of the use of eggs was forbidden during Lent, they were brought to the table of Easter Day, colored red to symbolize the Easter joy…The custom may have its origin in paganism, for a great many pagan customs celebrating the return of spring gravitated to Easter…The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been a symbol of fertility (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 5, p.227, article “Easter”).

This recognised Catholic authority plainly admits that rabbits and eggs and many other Easter customs originated from the fertility worship of pagans and were introduced into Easter.

Where does the name for the festival of Easter itself come from? Notice what Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says about Easter:

Pascha…mistranslated ‘Easter’ in Acts 12:4, KJV, denotes the Passover … The term ‘Easter’ is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch [Passover] held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast …

From this Pasch the pagan festival of “Easter” was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity” (p. 192).

Easter was different to the original festival of Passover that Christ kept (Matthew 26:18). It was introduced later some time after the time of the early apostles.

The Phoenician fertility goddess Astarte was known as Ishtar by the Babylonians. The famous Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin was named after this great mother goddess. In his book “Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought” James Bonwick writes:

The mystic egg of Babylon, hatching the Venus Ishtar, fell from heaven to the Euphrates. Dyed eggs were sacred Easter offerings in Egypt, as they are still in China and Europe. Easter, or spring, was the season of birth, terrestrial and celestial. (p. 211-212).

According to historian Alexander Hislop another custom that was part of the worship of Ishtar in Babylon was Lent. He writes:

The forty days’ abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshipers of the Babylonian goddess… Such a Lent of forty days was held in spring by the Pagan Mexicans …. Such a Lent of forty days was observed in Egypt …” (The Two Babylons, p. 104-105).

What about the custom of eating fish on Good Friday that I asked my mother about? Where does it really come from? Ralph Woodrow explains its origins in the quote below:

Certainly the Scriptures never associate fish with Friday. On the other hand, the word “Friday” comes from the name of “Freya”, who was regarded as the goddess of peace, joy and FERTILITY, the symbol of fertility being the FISH. From very early times the fish was a symbol of fertility…The word “fish” comes from “dag” which implies increase or fertility…The fish was regarded as sacred to Ashtoreth, the name under which the Israelites worshipped the pagan goddess. In ancient Egypt, Isis was sometimes represented with a fish on her head…

Consider that Friday was named after the goddess of sexual fertility, Friday being her sacred day and the fish her symbol, it seems more than a mere coincidence that Catholics have been taught that Friday is a day of abstinence from meat, a day to eat fish! (Babylon Mystery Religion, p.142-143)

Given that Friday was the day of the fertility goddess Freya, the Norse equivalent of the Babylonian Ishtar, might that have some connection to do with why the death of Jesus is celebrated on a Friday, only 1 day and 2 nights before Sunday sunrise, as opposed to 3 days and 3 nights? Jesus Himself stated very plainly:

For as Jonah was three days AND three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:39-40).

If the resurrection took place at the same time of day as when Jesus was buried (just before sunset) – only three days later – this would place the resurrection close to sunset on the Saturday, not Sunday sunrise, as is commonly assumed. The gospel writers tell of several different visits made by the disciples to the tomb on that first day of the week. In every instance, they found the tomb EMPTY! In John 19:30-31 we read:

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Jesus kept the Passover the night before (Matthew 26:18) on the day noted in Leviticus 23:5. The Sabbath on the day after Christ was crucified was a high day – it was an annual Sabbath – the first Day of the feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8) which could occur on a day other than Saturday. In the year of His death it was held on a Thursday.

Jesus’ death and burial was shortly before Wednesday sunset NOT on a Friday (Freya’s day) which was followed by the annual high day on the Thursday, the preparation day of Friday and then came the weekly Sabbath.

In chronological order Luke 23:54-56 states that Jesus was buried, the Sabbath drew on (the high day), they returned to prepare spices which would have happened on the Friday as they wouldn’t have done so on the high Sabbath of Unleavened Bread (Thursday) and then rested on the weekly Sabbath.

How does God feel about us using pagan customs as a part of our worship of Him? Is God OK with it or not? Ralph Woodrow makes the follow comments about this including a biblical verse that directly answers the question:

Catholic scholars know and recognize that there are customs within their church which were borrowed from paganism. But they reason that many things, though originally pagan, can be christianized…Though pagans worshipped the sun toward the east, could we not have sunrise services to honour the resurrection of Christ, even though this was not the time of day that He rose? Even though the egg was used by pagans, can’t we continue its use and pretend it symbolizes the large rock that was in front of the tomb? In other words, why not adopt all kinds of popular customs, only instead of using them to honour pagan gods as the heathen did, use them to honor Christ?

It all sounds very logical, yet a much safer guideline is found in the Bible itself: “Take heed…that you do not ask about their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods, that I too may do likewise? YOU SHALL NOT do so to the LORD your God…All the things I command you, be careful to do it. You shall not add to it, nor take away from it” [Deuteronomy 12:30-32] (Babylon Mystery Religion, p.148).  

Jesus did not keep Easter. He kept the Passover (Matthew 26:18), one of seven festivals that God gave to Israel at Mount Sinai. When God gave Israel the instructions for how to keep each of these festivals He started off by calling them “the feasts of THE LORD” (Leviticus 23:2). The Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us:

The sanctity of special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians … [who] continued to observe the Jewish festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed (11th edition,Vol. VIII, p. 828, “Easter”).

Instead of Passover just symbolising the death angel sparing Israel during the plagues of Egypt, the Passover now celebrates Jesus passing over our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7). Instead of just celebrating coming out of Egypt, the feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates our coming out of sin (1 Corinthians 5:8). Pentecost now celebrates the birth of the Church (Acts 2) – the first harvest of souls.

The four latter festivals don’t just celebrate physical events such as the latter, greater physical harvest but the great harvest of souls to occur after Christ’s return and other end-time events. Paul referred to these feasts as “a shadow of things to come” in Colossians 2:17.

If you wish to know more about the origin of Easter customs and more about the wonderful festivals that God has specifically given that step by step describe His great plan for mankind’s salvation then be sure to download a copy of the United Church of God booklets “Holidays or Holy Days” and “God’s Holy Day Plan”.


Financial History and Bible Prophecy

Winston Churchill once stated that the further you look back into history the further ahead you can see forward. One area of history that is relatively little known is financial history. When you can understand how the history of the current economic system developed you will get a clearer idea of where it is probably headed.

One fascinating lesson of financial history I recently learned about is the different currency systems that have developed in the last century and a half. Each different system has lasted about 30-40 years and we are close to a new system developing according to Mike Maloney, author of “Guide to Investing In Gold and Silver: Protect Your Financial Future” and presenter of the documentary series “The Hidden Secrets of Money” where he presents this history in simple, everyday language.

Between 1880 and 1914 was the time of the classical Gold Standard. Governments would only print money to the value that there was gold in the vaults to back up the currency printed.

With the enormous costs of World War I there was not enough gold to pay for the costs of the war and so the next system developed between the two wars was the Gold Exchange Standard, where currency was only partially backed by gold. U.S. dollars, for example, were printed to the value of $50 for every $20 backed by gold – a 40% ratio of gold to currency printed.

World War II led to the development of the next system known as the Bretton Woods system. Contrary to popular belief, America’s involvement in World War II did not prosper their economy. It was, in fact, the time of the war before the Pearl Harbour attack where they supplied arms and supplies to Europe that made America rich. During this period an enormous amount of gold flowed from Europe to America. By the end of WWII America had 2/3rds of the world’s gold and other nations had little gold reserves.

At the Bretton Woods conference in 1947 in New Hampshire the world’s nations agreed to fix their currencies proportional to the U.S. dollar and America would anchor its currency to gold at the value of $35 per ounce. The other nations would use the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency which could be redeemed from America for gold. The value of other nations currencies were tied to the U.S. dollar which was partially anchored by gold.

Under the Bretton Woods system there was no reserve ratio of gold that America had to hold for  the currency it printed, though gold from the U.S. could be redeemed from other central banks for $35 per ounce. Due to massive spending on the Korean and Vietnam wars and major social programs, America printed far more currency than the gold they had backing it up. Other nations, starting with France, could see this and, not trusting America, they redeemed gold from America to the point that America lost 50% of its gold reserves between 1959 and 1971. What  happened was essentially just like a bank run.

This dramatic loss of gold led to U.S. President Richard Nixon taking the U.S. dollar off the gold standard. Once he did this the value of all world currencies (still tied for a time to the U.S. dollar) were no longer connected in any way to gold reserves. All currency printed was fiat currency. When currency is created there is now no store of value (such as gold or silver) to back it and give it value.

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The amount of currency being printed since the financial crisis of 2008 is growing at a staggering exponential rate in all nations, especially America, far outstripping the goods produced and gold that might back it and national debts are expanding exponentially. This is leading to a debasing of our currencies, inflation and massive government indebtedness that is unsustainable and has to give at some point. Governments do this for short term gains at the expense of our future prosperity as all debt comes home to roost eventually.

If the fiat (unbacked currency) system falters during another global financial crisis what system might we see in its place?

Once faith begins to be lost in paper currencies there will probably be a swing back to backing currencies with something and gold has always been the store of value of choice. Governments and banks swayed by human nature, however, will probably try and back it with as little as the market will have faith in.

What can Bible prophecy tell us about what is ahead?

Despite its current Euro issues it would appear from Bible prophecy that Europe will fare surprisingly well down the track. Revelation 18 shows the Babylonian system based in Europe to be very rich. This system is backed by the great church that is based in Rome (Revelation 17).

The central banks of Germany, France and Italy combined currently hold about 8 270 tonnes of gold (http://www.sbcgold.com/blog/much-gold-central-banks-actually). A friend of a church member I know did some installation work in the Vatican and was taken to parts of the Vatican few ever get to see, including its gold vaults. He was told the amount of gold held by the Vatican was 7 200 tonnes, not that much short of the combined gold held by Germany, France and Italy. The Vatican’s own gold may play a part in Europe’s improved fortunes, perhaps acting as collateral for a partially backed European currency in the future in exchange for much greater control by the Vatican. The level of control it can leverage in return may play a part in the prophecy about the beast turning on the woman near the end of the Great Tribulation in Revelation 17:16.

In Daniel 11:42 we read how the “King of the North” takes the gold and silver of Egypt and perhaps taking gold reserves through conquest (as Hitler did) is another factor in how this future system will prosper.

There’s an old saying called the Golden Rule that says “He who has the gold makes the rules.” We should be watchful as the world’s economy shifts direction and it’s possible that the golden rule may prove to be very relevant in the great geo-political shifts we will see in the years ahead.


Are They Born That Way?

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When I think back to how things were back in the 1980’s compared to today I am amazed at how openly homosexuality is pushed in our western society today compared to back then.

A couple of years back I moved to New Farm in Brisbane and found myself shocked when I visited the local council library and they had a whole aisle of books devoted to gay and lesbian literature and also had a promotional poster on a wall for a queer film festival. At my local 7/11 I regularly see a free gay magazine called Pride. Only later did I find out the suburb was quite a popular one with the gay community.

I recently struck up a friendship with a married man with children who was helping me out with some sporting projects. I was surprised at how liberal his views were when he posted some items on facebook promoting homosexuality and transgenderism. It highlighted to me just how much homosexuality is approved by those who are not themselves homosexual.

On another occasion when I visited Sydney I heard a radio poll of the top 5 places you’d take a tourist to visit in Sydney. I expected the Harbour Bridge or Centrepoint to be the top item and was shocked when the number one response was the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras.

One of the key planks in the argument supporting homosexuality is that it is genetic and that some people are just born that way. The Australian pop band Savage Garden in their hit song “Affirmation” summarised this view when the group’s singer sang “I believe you can’t control or choose your sexuality.” If you were born that way or can’t choose your sexuality then how can you be guilty over the sexuality you were born with?

The Christian community, as far as I am aware, in speaking against homosexuality, have been relatively silent in addressing the issue of explaining how some people can be drawn to the same sex from a very early age. Are people born that way?

I have heard the testimony of some who were formerly homosexual and later turned to God’s way that they felt drawn to the same sex from a very early age even before puberty. If this is so, then how is this possible? Were they born that way or is there another explanation?

Why do people gravitate to homosexuality?

There are many examples of people who started off straight that later embraced homosexuality after experimenting with it in college or university.

There are also other examples of those who started off straight, gotten hooked on pornography and promiscuity and as their addiction got deeper they needed more of a hit, more variety and as they became bored with normal sex they gravitated to homosexuality.

In both these examples they chose the homosexual lifestyle by acquiring a taste for it. We can acquire a taste for some things the more we try them out. Tastes can change. Some are more difficult to change than others. One example of where tastes can change is where most children when they first take a sip of beer find it terrible yet most of these end up liking beer when they become adults after they push themselves to try it more and start taking a liking to it.

Dr Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institutes cites studies that show that the vast majority of homosexuals learn and acquire a taste for homosexuality from their early teens on. He cites a number of causes from family dysfunction where love and affection is absent in the individual’s life, being approached by an older homosexual when they are young and homosexual experimentation. He writes:

There is evidence that homosexuality, like drug use is “handed down” from older individuals. The first homosexual encounter is usually initiated by an older person. In separate studies 60%, 64%, and 61% of the respondents claimed that their first partner was someone older who initiated the sexual experience…There was a strong relationship between those whose first experience was homosexual and those who practiced homosexuality in later life. In the FRI study two-thirds of the boys whose first experience was homosexual engaged in homosexual behaviour as adults (http://www.biblebelievers.com/Cameron3.html).


Is homosexuality genetic where it is passed down from one generation to another?

Let’s apply a little common sense to answer this one. Those who are exclusively homosexual are unable to reproduce naturally and cannot perpetuate the human species and therefore those who are exclusively homosexual cannot pass on genes to the next generation.

If we rule this out then how do we account for how some people can be drawn to the same sex from a very early age? There are two other possibilities.

The first is some form of physical or mental disorder with the brain. Brain diseases and afflictions have been very much on the rise in recent decades with the surge in Autism and Alzheimer’s disease. Many point the finger at chemicals in our foods and lack of minerals and nutrients in our soil.

Dr Cameron in the above quoted article states there is no definitive evidence that a purely physical disorder accounts for homosexuality and notes some psychoanalysts believe when it happens so young that it is more likely to be a mental disorder brought on by childhood trauma. If a physical or mental disorder were the case, like any physical disease, the repentant believer can seek healing from God while doing their part to correct the problem. The timing of His healing will depend on His plan to use the trial to build His character within that individual.

The second possibility is gravitating to the moods and impulses broadcast by Satan from a very early age. Ephesians 2:2 tells us that Satan is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience”. Herbert W. Armstrong wrote the following about this verse:

This great and powerful being, even though evil, has power literally to surcharge the air around this earth. HE BROADCASTS!… The spirit in every human being is automatically tuned in on Satan’s wavelength. You don’t hear anything because he does not broadcast in words — nor in sounds, whether music or otherwise. He broadcasts in ATTITUDES. He broadcasts in attitudes of SELF-centeredness, lust, greed, vanity, jealousy, envy, resentment, competition, strife, bitterness, and hate…that we call “Human NATURE’ is actually SATAN’S NATURE…

Those unaware of this phenomenon, with this self-centered attitude being broadcast and injected into their unsuspecting minds from earliest childhood, do, to a greater or lesser degree, absorb it until it becomes their normal attitude. It becomes habitual. It does not, of course, exhibit the same degree of effect in all minds — one person will become more evil than another. But the natural tendency is there. They come to have it naturally. It becomes their very NATURE. And we call it “human nature.” (Did God Create Human Nature?, p.8-9)

Dwelling on and giving over such impulses that come from Satan over a period of time, even at an early age, can lead to habitual thinking and behaviour and that can include our sexual orientation.

The apostle Paul would sometimes use principles found in nature to make a case for certain things.  Paul said: “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonour to him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14). In Romans 1:26-27 he said that homosexuality is against what is natural. Nature and common sense tells us that the physical reproductive organs were not designed for homosexual sex and if we were all exclusively homosexual then the human race would die out with our generation. Even from an evolutionary point of view the survival of the fittest would quickly see an end to homosexuality if humans were all that way inclined.

I feel compassion for those who want to follow God’s way when it comes to sex but are still strongly drawn to same sex. I refuse to label them as homosexual if they have that physical desire but obediently do not act on those feelings just as I wouldn’t call someone a thief if they felt tempted to steal but faithfully resisted the temptation to act on that.

I feel compassion for those who have spiritually lost their way, including those who are homosexual, as often there are deeper issues of abandonment and family breakdown that have led them down that path.

That said, this concern and compassion for them should not lead to us being soft on the practice of homosexuality. God’s word trumps our human reasoning and God makes it clear from Genesis to Revelation that this practice is against His holy law.

God opposes sin and open rebellion against His law because of the harm that it does to relationships. In Ezekiel 16:49 in speaking to Jerusalem God said: “Behold, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom; pride.” Today the gay movement will often use the term “Gay pride”. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor abusers, nor homosexuals…shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you.”

Paul knew some who had turned their lives to God and been able to abandon the homosexual lifestyle. There is hope for those who turn to God and seek the help that is available and choose to live by His ways, including what God teaches about sexuality.


Following God In A Selfie-Centred World

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A word has entered our vocabulary in the last decade due to its proliferation with the introduction of social media called the selfie. A selfie is it’s basically a photo that one takes of oneself and posts up on social media to share with friends.

We do have a generation growing up in this world today on social media where narcissism has become a growing problem. Narcissism is a term that means love of the self which is derived from the Greek legend of Narcissis who fell in love with the reflection of himself that he saw in a pool of water which is really kind of like many people today who like to take photos of themself in a mirror often poking their lips out to make an impression of a duck because ducks are just so good looking.

We can leverage technology such as the internet to reach more people than ever before with the gospel and do many great things with technology. On the flip side there can be some unintended negative consequences that technology can have on our walk with God and on our values if we are not careful about our use of such technology. I’d like to take a brief look at two of the negative effects that technology and the internet can have on our values and our walk with God and what God has to say about how to correct those problems.

1) Discontentment

When we compare with others, we become dissatisfied and discontented in our own hearts. When I was young, we just had to kind of randomly guess that we weren’t popular. These days you can measure it!  “So and so got 100 likes and my post only got 2.” Researchers did a study at two college universities, and they had students spend half an hour on Facebook, and then surveyed their feelings after half an hour of just looking on Facebook.  And what they found is, one third of the students felt significantly depressed, citing envy as the number one emotion of what they felt, after 30 minutes of just watching what happens on Facebook.

Even with older technology like TV this can be a problem with ads designed to stir up discontentment that can only be cured by buying the product they are selling – ads encouraging us to buy bigger and better cars and houses – shows about celebrities living opulent lifestyles and travelling the world. With TV and facebook we can find ourselves comparing our mundane behind the scenes life with other people’s highlights reels. We can feed on images of things and people that arouse lust and cause us to have discontentment with what we have or even who we are with and that not only can kill our joy but also destroy our relationships with those we love.

There are two godly qualities that can help us deal with this problem of discontentment. The first quality is thankfulness. In Philippians 4:6 we read: “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel” (CEV).  This inner peace, which is the opposite of restless discontentment, comes from being thankful for all that God has given us and trusting God to provide for our needs when we put our requests to Him.

A few verses later in Philippians 4 we read about the other quality that is the flow-on effect of having a thankful heart – being content. “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (verses 12 & 13). It is the power of Christ within us through His spirit that is the secret of being content in every situation. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” as it says over in 1 Timothy 6:6. God’s promises of a wondrous future and trusting in His unfailing love for us can help us to defeat the dragon of being worried and discontent with our lot in life.

2) Self-centredness

With the popularity of social media and user-generated content such as Facebook and Youtube, as a society we’re becoming more and more addicted to the immediate affirmation of likes and comments from others. Scientists will tell you that it releases a feel-good chemical in our brain called dopamine and many are addicted to that and many people are addicted to this immediate feedback!

One of my pet hates is seeing too many people at the same time playing with their smartphones like when you are waiting for or on a bus or train. Something deep inside me wants to scream out “Get a life people!” or “Why can’t you people just be content with your own thoughts and daydreams.” When I was in New Zealand a friend mentioned where he works that he sat in on 3 different meetings with phone companies demonstrating their new phone products and a phrase that was repeated in each demonstration was that we want them using their phones to be an addictive experience. And boy have they have achieved that in spades. There is that chemical rush that’s causing many people to be more addicted to social media and the instant affirmation that it brings as well as not being able to resist looking at their phones when they are actually with other people.

I simply can’t understand this current generation’s love affair with taking selfies. When I was young it seems like most people dreaded having their photo taken and it was like pulling hen’s teeth getting everyone I wanted in a group photo. And, of course, we all dreaded having our annual photo taken of our class at school desperately hoping we wouldn’t look as bad as our license or passport photo.

While the average American Facebook user has around 330 Facebook friends, they say they only have 2 close friends, which is down from 6, some 20 years ago. Many people need to rediscover the power of practicing presence, of being together with other people rather than just online. In Hebrews 10:24-25, Paul writes: “Let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Let’s suppose you’ve got a friend, or a family member, that’s hurting right now.  They just got bad news.  Bad medical news, they lost their job, their girlfriend broke up with them, they found out bad news about their husband or child. An acceptable way of showing concern that most of us would do, in our generation today, is crank out a text or a facebook post: “Hey, just thinking about you.”  Let’s take it up a notch. You can actually use your smartphone to talk to them on the phone. You can ask them, “Hey, how are you doing?” and you can listen to the tone of their voice. And then, you can ask them some questions, and the conversation can go places that it will not go with texts when you hear tone of voice.

Let’s say we really wanna get crazy and take it up another level. Another way we could show love is we could go see them.  We could get in our car, go across town, whatever the case would be, and we could sit down with them, face to face, and listen to them, and ask them questions, have a cup of coffee with them, give them a hug if they need one. For the recipient your presence speaks much more to them than your posts on facebook.

The cure to the selfishness which can be inflamed by modern technology is to take on the mindset or attitude of Christ which is spoken on in Matthew 20:27-28: “And whoever desires to be chief among you, let him be your servant; even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”