Hidden Messages in the Bible

Hidden Messages in the Bible - The NapkinWe have all seen dubious claims about hidden messages in the Bible. They include everything from numerology to codes with special meanings. The only place where hidden messages do unquestionably occur in the New Testament is in the book of Revelation. That book uses symbols that the Christian readers would understand, and the Romans would not. However, there are a few cases that we might call hidden messages in the Bible that Christian or Jewish readers might understand and which other readers would miss.

One such example is the description of the burial tomb of Jesus in John 20:1-9. “Then Simon Peter … went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen … as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.”

Jewish protocol was that when the master of the house was finished eating, he would wipe his mouth and face and toss the napkin aside. That action indicated that the contamination was removed from him, and the event was ended. If he folded the towel and set it in order, that was a sign that he was not finished and would return to finish the meal or whatever he had been working on.

The folded napkin and the missing body sent a strong message to Peter and the women who visited the tomb. Jesus was indicating that He would return. It was a hidden message to the followers of Jesus that the Romans would not have understood. While it was not obvious or miraculous, it could be an important hidden message to those who were about to become the apostles of Jesus Christ.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why There Is No Demon Possession Today

Why There Is No Demon Possession TodayYesterday we pointed out that there was a reason for demon possession in the time of Christ. With God in the flesh on Earth dwelling among men (John 1:14), for humans to have a choice to reject God, there had to be a vehicle to allow that freedom. Satan offered that choice, and demon possession was the tool that allowed people not to be overpowered by the work of Jesus. We want to examine why there is no demon possession today.

There are eight reasons why we can be confident that we will never be taken over by demons and compelled to do something that violates our freedom of choice:

1. Prophecies of the work of Christ indicate an end to demons and unclean spirits. Zechariah 13:1-4 is one example. 1 John 3:8 and Colossians 2:15 tells us that Christ ended that kind of power of Satan.

2. Warnings to the Church do not include demons. There are many warnings: Acts 20:28-31, 1 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 1:28, 2 Peter 2:1-3. Surely if demon possession were a threat, Christians would be warned about it.

3. The tools to resist Satan do not include exorcisms. Read James 4:7 and Ephesians 6:12-18. There is no mention of exorcisms in instructions to the Church.

4. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was “tempted in every way as are we,” but no one believes Jesus was ever demon-possessed and needed an exorcism.

5. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that nothing we face is any different from “what is common to man.” Demon possession is not “common to man.”

6. The Bible tells us that if we trust God, He will control Satan. See Job 1:12 and 2:6. God placed limits on Satan. Romans 8:28 tells us that God can turn Satan’s best shot into something good. See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

7. Pictures of the judgment do not show one single case of a person being condemned because of demon possession. See John 20:31 and Matthew 25:31-46. Passages like Philippians 2:12 and 2 Timothy 2:15 show us that what we do and how we live are the key to salvation, not just being lucky enough not to become possessed by a demon.

8. The methodology of exorcisms in the Bible does not match those of exorcists today. Acts 16:18 show us a biblical exorcism – “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ, come out of her.” I have observed modern “exorcisms.” They take hours of chanting and commanding and emotional manipulation. Only those authorized by Christ could perform exorcisms. See Acts 19:13-16 and Mark 16:17.

Those are biblical reasons why there is no demon possession today. Where you spend eternity is your choice. Matthew 10:28 tells us to fear Satan, but the Bible clearly teaches it is our choice whether to obey God or not. Relying on modern shysters who use religion to take money from people and gain political control over others is an opposition to the teaching of the Bible and a destructive activity. The message of Acts 19:13-16 rings true today.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

If I Die Now, Will I Go to Heaven?

If I Die Now, Will I Go to Heaven?“If I die now, will I go to heaven?” That is a personal question and one you need to answer for yourself and no one else. What we can do is to see what the Bible says about this. Here are some points for your consideration:

GOD WANTS YOU TO BE SAVED AND GO TO HEAVEN. This is clearly stated in the Bible. It is stated clearly and plainly in 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9. Titus 1:2 indicates that before the creation, God intended that people would end up in heaven.

GOD WILL NOT FORCE ANYONE TO GO TO HEAVEN WHO DOES NOT WANT TO GO. Joshua 24:15 states personal choice clearly saying, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Judas made a choice. Thomas and Peter made a choice. (See Matthew 26:69-75 and John 20:24-29.) As long as we are alive, we have that choice available, and both Thomas and Peter changed their minds. Judas could have, but he chose not to.

THERE ARE PASSAGES THAT WARN ABOUT FALLING AWAY FROM GOD AS JUDAS DID. See 1 Corinthians 10:12, 2 Peter 1:10, Hebrews 3:12 and 4:11. All of these passages in context show that those they were written to people whose hearts were so attracted to evil that they deliberately chose to reject God. None of these passages say that God rejected people who were trying to live as God called them to live.

THE BIBLE TELLS US TO BE SURE OF HEAVEN. Read 1 John 5:13, Romans 4:8, Romans 8:1 (and include Romans 7:14-24 in your reading), 1 Corinthians 1:18, Romans 5:1, 1 John 1:5-7, and Romans 10:9-15. None of these passages say we earn heaven, and all of them indicate that even though we as Christians sin, God provides for our continuous cleansing through the blood of Christ. (“Purifies” in 1 John 1:5-7 is an active verb.)

THE BIBLE MAKES IT CLEAR THAT SALVATION IS A GIFT. Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:6 state it outright. We don’t earn heaven. It is a gift given to us by the grace of God. Any gift has to be accepted. God’s gift is described in Romans 6:3-23. We receive the gift by submitting to God’s workmanship as Ephesians describes it. Baptism is a gift of God, washing away our sins and allowing us to walk in the light living a new life. When we reject baptism, we reject God’s gift, and all that comes with it.

Heaven is not a goal to be reached by what we do. What we do is a result of the gift of God working in us. We urge you to obey God and thus choose to accept His gift and answer “yes” to the question, “If I die now, will I go to heaven?”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Thomas Jefferson’s Bible

Thomas Jefferson's Bible examined in the book Doubting Thomas
Atheists and skeptics have done a good job of convincing many people that Thomas Jefferson was especially critical of the claims of Jesus being the Son of God,and that he was a closet atheist. I have heard (and repeated I am sorry to say), the claim that Jefferson’s Bible had holes all through it in which he clipped out anything he didn’t like. The story was that a good percentage of the pages of Thomas Jefferson’s Bible were missing. (I have commented that a lot of us do that mentally.) It turns out that most of what we have been told about Jefferson and his religious convictions are not true.

Mark Beliles and Jerry Newcombe wrote a book published by Morgan James in October of 2014 titled Doubting Thomas: The Religious Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson did clearly state that people should be free to believe or to disbelieve in Jesus, which no thinking American can deny. That view influenced his writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. He also wrote, but did not publish, a work which was designed to help Indians understand the philosophy of Christianity. It was titled The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted From the Account of His Life and Doctrines as Given by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John; Being an Abridgment of the New Testament for the Use of Indians Unembarrassed with Matters of Fact or Faith Beyond the Level of Their Comprehensions. (What a title!) According to Jefferson, this work was to help the Indians benefit from the moral teachings of Jesus Christ. Jefferson stated in a letter to William Canby on September 18, 1813: “Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus Christ.”

When Jefferson was president he regularly attended the Christian worship services held at the U.S. Capitol building. He did not exclude miracles from what is called “The Jefferson Bible.” Matthew 10:8, Luke 14:1-6, Matthew 9:18-25, Matthew 9:20-22 and Matthew 9:27-31 are all in his Bible. However, he struggled with some doctrinal issues which he called “Christology.” He had an especially hard time with the Godhead.

He was not a theologian, but he clearly was a believer. He devoted a great deal of energy and time to understanding the teachings of Jesus Christ as indicated by Thomas Jefferson’s Bible.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Richard Dawkins Description of God

Dawkins Description of God
Yesterday we quoted the Richard Dawkins description of God from his book The God Delusion.

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins

For the past two days, we have looked at the misunderstandings involved in the statements like the one above that are made by atheists to justify denying God’s existence. We want to make it clear that an argument based on not liking something the Bible says about God ignores the positive evidence that God does exist. In spite of that fact, the Dawkins description of God reflects a level of theological ignorance that is quite astounding. We examined some of the points yesterday, but here are some more examples:

RACIST– It is essential to distinguish between the Old Testament and the New Testament in terms of the system that they teach. The Old Testament was a political system as well as a religious one. Israel came out of Egypt as a new nation with a leader and a code of conduct that was political as well as religious. When Jesus came, He brought a new system. It was not a political system, and Christ made that clear many times. When Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” people had a hard time comprehending what He was saying. The Crusades were a product of not understanding that Jesus taught a non-physical kingdom. What is more significant is that Jesus lived what he taught. The classic example is the incident with the Samaritan woman in John 4. The writer even points out that fact (John 4:9), and we see Jesus staying in that Samaritan city for two days.

SADOMASOCHISTIC – The notion of getting sexual pleasure by hurting someone else is the exact opposite of the biblical teaching. Genesis 2:24 introduces the concept of “one flesh” and 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 refers to women’s sexual needs being met on the same level as the man’s needs. The Bible does report the history of horrible human violence against women. For example, Judges 19:25-20:7 reports a gang rape that ends in the death of a woman. We have pointed out previously that reporting on a historical event doesn’t mean endorsing it.

Throughout the ages, God has given humans a guide for how to live. To get the best of life, sex, food, friendship, family, and peace, we must all make the right choices. In the Old Testament, those choices were couched in the teachings of Moses and were designed for a primitive people in a wild and difficult environment. The Dawkins description of God misses the point.

With the coming of Christ, the situation in the world changed. It was time to break down political fences and build a system that would include all humans, all cultures, and all physical circumstances. The concept of love that was not self-serving and not sexual in its expression became a part of the message of Christ. The human tendency to act selfishly and violently means that the teachings of Christ are always up against a world of sin and rebellion. Rational human beings, however, will see the wisdom in what Christ taught. They will understand that this wisdom is a product of the Creator, not an accidental experiment in human behavior.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Theological Atheism

Theological AtheismBiologist Richard Dawkins expressed his theological atheism in his book The God Delusion.

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins

Yesterday we discussed atheists’ use of the Bible to defend their denial of the existence of God. We pointed out that they are ignoring all of the scientific evidence of a Creator. Bad theology dominates the other biblical arguments to reject God’s existence. Not separating the history of human actions from the commands of God is bad theology. Sloppy reading of what God tells us about hell and the human soul is another cause of theological atheism. The above statement by Dawkins highlights some other errors of those who reject the existence of God because they don’t like biblical statements about God’s actions and attitudes. Some examples are these:

JEALOUS – God is a jealous God. Passages like Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 32:16 and 21; and 1 Kings 14:22 state that fact. All of those statements are in the context of infidelity and are statements of a broken heart. None of them show a childlike “you have something I want” context.

UNJUST ETHNIC CLEANSER- The usual reference to this claim is 1 Samuel 15 n reference to the destruction of the Amalekites. The question, in this case, is what was the cause and why was such drastic action needed? The Amalekites were a bloodthirsty pagan tribe that attacked Israel as they came out of Egypt (Exodus 17:8). It is a historical fact that these people participated in everything that violated God told His people not to do. They participated in cannibalism, bestiality, pedophilia, all kinds of immorality. The result of this hygienic catastrophe was clear. We have seen HIV decimate human populations in places today where similar actions have taken place. In a primitive society, there was no remedy available outside of complete sterilization. This was not a political situation, but a hygienic one. Even the livestock were burned to stop the spread of disease.

MISOGYNISTIC- To suggest that God is a woman-hater is to ignore not only human history but also the changes brought by the teachings of Christ. In the Old Testament, many women were honored for their heroic roles – Sarah, Deborah, Ruth, and Esther are just a few examples. In the life and teachings of Jesus, women were elevated beyond any other religious or political system on Earth. Christ stated in Matthew 19:4-8 that it was the hardness of men’s hearts, not God’s will, that caused the demeaning of women. Galatians 3:28 clearly states what Jesus practiced, that there is: “no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Dawkins is a brilliant biologist, but he is not a theologian. His theological atheism shows his lack of understanding of the Bible and God as revealed in the Bible. A better-informed atheist like Michael Ruse has said that Dawkins makes him “embarrassed to be an atheist.”

Tomorrow, we will deal with more of the Dawkins description of God.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Rapture Theology and Science

Rapture Theology and SciencePeople sometimes attempt to find scientific support for a teaching of their denomination, such as rapture theology. They write us wanting to use black holes or quantum mechanics to support a doctrinal interpretation. We have used scientific evidence to talk about the validity of biblical statements and the wisdom that we see in the Bible. However, is an error to look for scientific support for a denominational belief that is not biblical. God spoke through Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” ( Isaiah 55:8-9).

People look for scientific support for something called “the rapture.” The word “rapture” is not found in any credible, heavily-used translation of the Bible. The word comes from a Greek term “harpazo” meaning “caught up.” First Thessalonians 4:17 shows that it developed from the Latin word “raptus” and was in the Vulgate a fourth-century Latin translation of the Bible. This use eventually evolved to the middle Latin word “raptura” and to the middle French “rapture.” Promoters of rapture theology refer to Acts 1:9-11 where Jesus was “taken up.” They even identify a place in Jerusalem where they claim this happened, but there is no archaeological support for that. The Greek word used in this verse is “epairo” meaning to be “taken up” not “harpazo” to be caught up.

Other passages where “harpazo” is used are Acts 8:39, 2 Corinthians 12:2 and Revelation 12:5. If you read through those verses you will see that what they describe is not a physical act or condition, but a spiritual one. In the 2 Corinthians passage, Paul expresses confusion about what he experienced, but making clear it was not a physical event. Whatever your view of what will happen when Jesus Christ comes again, you should not look for scientific support for it from archaeology, quantum mechanics, relativity, or any physical process. Rapture theology is not scientific.

Owen Olbricht in his book The Kingdom of the Messiah (ISBN 978-0-89916-853-1) says it well: “Our conclusions will determine what we believe concerning Jesus’ return, the end of the world, the judgment, and the nature of Jesus’ kingdom.” (Page 146).

He also comments on why this should not be an issue for us: “Even if we do not agree on teachings about the rapture, differing views should not divide us; for our understanding of the events that will take place when Jesus returns will not determine our eternal destiny. What will happen will happen, regardless of what we think. Understanding what we must do to prepare to face Jesus, when He comes to judge the living and the resurrected dead (2 Timothy 4:1), is what is important. Jesus said, ‘You too, be ready: for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.’ (Luke 12:40).” (Page 145.)

The message of the second coming is a spiritual message, not one to be investigated from any scientific field. The end of time and the dissolving of the physical cosmos may have cosmological implications, but the message is still spiritual.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Christ and Creation

Christ and CreationOne of the more difficult ideas for humans to grasp is the concept of what God is. Closely related to that is the problem of how Christ could be divine and yet live as a man in the flesh here on Earth. We need to examine how the Bible presents Christ and creation.

First, we must understand that God is a non-physical being existing in a higher dimension. The fact that Jesus was divine is a critical issue to the Christian system. Since Jesus was divine, His existence (like God’s) must not be physical even if He manifested Himself for a short time as a man. A popular idea in secular and even religious circles today is that Jesus was just a very good man and moral teacher. That modernist idea compromises the concept of Jesus dying to save a lost world of sinners.

The Bible presents Christ and creation by making it abundantly clear that Jesus existed before the creation. It portrays Him as independent of the limitations of time. Beginning in John 1:1, we read:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. …. (verse 14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…”

To understand this passage, we must understand the real meaning of the word translated “Word” in these verses. The word used in the original Greek is “logos.” To Greek philosophers, this word meant the first cause of all things. The fact that the first cause became flesh clearly indicates that Jesus is the subject of the verses.

In John 8:58, Jesus further illustrates this point by saying, “…Before Abraham was, I am.” John 16:28 indicates Jesus came into the world by coming forth from the Father, thus indicating His existence prior to that coming forth. John 17:5 makes it even more evident when Jesus says, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Colossians 1:15-17 deals with Christ and creation by identifying Jesus’ role in the creation with these words:

“Who is the image of the invisible God, the sovereign of all creation. For in him all things were created, both in the heavens and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

If we understand the nature of God, all of this makes a great deal of sense. God, being the Creator of our three-dimensional world, can interact with the world in any way He wishes. We can manipulate and totally comprehend the markings on a two-dimensional sheet of paper because we exist in a higher dimension. So it is with God and us as Acts 17:28 indicates “we live and move and have our being” in God. This is our relationship to the Creator and clarifies how God can do the things He has done in human history.

Jesus was in the form of God (Philippians 2:6) but came to Earth and became flesh to provide a bridge between God and us. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” We do not have a God who is removed and remote from our problems. We will not be able to say on the day of judgment, “Lord, you don’t know how it is on Earth.” God bridged the gap and eliminated that excuse. Jesus felt every temptation we feel! We can see the wisdom of God in this, and it should excite us and encourage us as we strive to follow the example Jesus gave.

The more we understand of Christ and creation, the more we comprehend the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for us. As we understand the beauty and wonder of creation, we are awe-struck by the excellent planning and wisdom. Let us praise our great God who loves us and has bridged the gap as only He could do.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Death and Taxes

Death and TaxesYou have heard it said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. The truth is that only one of those things is certain. Not only will every one of us die, but every government that collects taxes will also die. It’s a scientific fact that all things, even the universe itself, will come to an end. There is no escaping death for everyone and everything.

The second law of thermodynamics tells us everything in the universe is becoming disordered. The disorder will eventually catch up with us and with everything else. Our vehicles wear out. Our clothing wears out. Our bodies wear out. Even the Sun and all of the other stars will wear out.

If you spend your life getting all you can for yourself, not caring whom you hurt in the process, you will not take your riches with you. If you spend your life doing good and helping others, those you helped will also die, and the monuments you built will crumble. If you devote your life to studying science and adding to the database of human knowledge, that too will go away. If all things in the universe, including humans, are merely accidents of chance, we ultimately have no purpose, no value, and no hope.

If you have read this far, you may be feeling depressed, but I have good news. There is a God who created the universe, and you, for a purpose. Yes, your body will die, and even the universe will die. But by God’s grace, you can choose to live on. God has entered the time dimension in human form and conquered death for us. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live.”

How is it possible to live beyond death? In the beginning, God created time and space, matter, and energy. Those things do not limit Him because He created them. The second law of thermodynamics does not apply to God. He does not get old or die. The Bible tells us that because of God’s love and grace, you have the choice to believe and accept and live with God in a new creation. Yes, you can live beyond death and taxes. The choice is yours.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Joy of Motherhood

Joy of MotherhoodI would like to be a mother. I can’t imagine the joy of motherhood bringing a new life into the world, nurturing that child and watching her or him grow into a productive adult. I want to be a mother very badly, but I don’t have the equipment to do that.

Yesterday we talked about how atheists and feminists try to vilify Christ and Christianity by suggesting that the Bible treats women as second-class citizens. However, Christ and His apostles treated women as equals. (See John 4 and Galatians 3:26-29.) The passage the atheists point out is 1 Timothy 2:9-15. That passage tells us that women can be saved in childbirth. In other words that role is so important that being a mother can be an opportunity to fulfill an incredible role that God has made available. Women don’t have to accept that role, but it is available. No matter how badly I want to be a mother, it simply isn’t possible.

A woman can accept the role of being a mother, but men have no way to choose that role. In the spiritual realm, God has given men a role. Just like the baseball team, having the male lead the family spiritually doesn’t diminish the value of a woman any more than being a first baseman diminishes the value of a catcher. A woman’s worth is not diminished by allowing her husband to fulfill his role as a leader in worship.

Unfortunately, most men are not up to fulfilling the role of being the spiritual leader of the family. Frequently women have to step in and help when the male refuses or is unable to fill the role. A first baseman can fill in for a catcher, but that is certainly not the way the roles are assigned or work their best.

Read Proverbs 31:10-31, Acts 16:14-15, 40, Acts 21:8-9 and Acts 2:17-18. Look at Ephesians 5:25-28 and consider God’s plan for both men and women. Christianity has elevated women and provided a basis for gender equality. Equality does not mean sameness, and we should thank God for the special design He has built into men and women to allow them to have meaningful roles producing happy and fulfilling lives – including the joy of motherhood.
— John N. Clayton © 2019