Exploring the Truth
The Bible, End Times, and Original Christianity
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Apparently, there are more than 54 thousand religions in our world claiming to be Christian. Yet Jesus founded only ONE church: “one body, and one holy spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling; one Lord Jesus, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is above all, through us all, and in us all.”(Ephesians 4:4-6) Something MUST be wrong. Rather than unity, there is worldwide disunity among those religions claiming to be Christ’s. Explore what the ORIGINAL Christians believed and their way of life, and find out how their beliefs differed from traditional Christianity. Read more…
Modern Science and Original Christianity
The humanist religion for the secular world is science. There are three kinds of science to my way of thinking: Factual science, speculative science, and best-guess science.
Factual science is easily verifiable and codifies natural forces and processes. Osmosis, and photosynthesis are very real processes which can be verified in the lab. Even invisible laws and forces are factual science: the laws of physics, gravity, electricity, and even the wind. We can only see their effects but no one seriously doubts their reality. Applied science also fits into this category: Our smart phones either work or do not. Sometimes there are glitches with our cars, computers, or cell phones but these are readily fixed.
It is the proliferation of speculative science that hoodwinks people. Historic science includes to a greater or lesser extent archaeology, paleontology, cosmology, anthropology, and even geology. We must remind ourselves that no one really knows why the dinosaurs really disappeared. If it was a meteorite striking the earth, why did it not also include elephants and giraffes? Once it was taken as a fact that Pluto was the ninth planet but now it is no longer accepted as a fact. If the Big Bang really occurred how is it our planet received its dual polarity? And how does speculative justify the extraordinary role of random chance in the macroevolutionary progress? We may be taught the geological rock cycle but the only process that has been observed is the change from magma to lava. No modern river deltas have formed classic sedimentary structure, nor has any lava been seen to transform itself into classic igneous structures. Of course there is a narrative to explain the formation of metamorphic rock structures like marble but no one has ever seen its creation in all human history.
The real problem with speculative science is the inability to confirm it beyond peer review which has been found to be mostly paid for, reviewed by as little few as two individuals, and almost never duplicated in terms of clinical studies. A decade ago, CNN reported that 15% of all articles in all medical journals were retracted, 5% of which were purposely falsified.
The trunk of the tree underlying speculative science is the notion of deep time: billions of years during which gradual changes can occur, even jumping different animal and plant kinds. Einstein established the relativity of time in 1906 (confirmed in 1977) and the late Stephan Hawking admitted in his classic book, A Brief History of Time, “Of there had to be a beginning.” No scientist I am aware of has successfully accounted for when that beginning of time occurred. Hawking, himself, theorized a tautology laying a singularity for the beginning of time. But this turned out to be circular reasoning in that this singularity he spoke of was a moment in spacetime: in other words, time arose from spacetime. I would argue that the Bible’s view of a more recent creation is justified by the built-in age of the atomic world, especially radioisotopes and their half-lives.
Then there is best-guess science. Pandemics have been recorded for thousands of years. The last one was a century ago in 1918. But even the Bible records the way in which the ancient Israelites were to quarantine and handle an infectious skin disease translated in our Bibles as leprosy. Modern medical science has wisely advised us to wear face masks, keep our distance from each other, and scrupulously wash our hands. Will this stop the spread? Time will tell but this is currently best-guess science. Who really understands the life and death of viruses? But we rely on this best-guess science on the basis of our justified confidence in its other treatments most of which are known solutions (regardless of side effects sometimes).
The most remarkable speculation in science is the emergence of life. No intelligent human being can actually create flora or fauna from nothing, let alone human life. Yes, it can be manipulated and grown in in vitro environments but life is a mystery that science can never answer. Let us not forget that the definition of life is anything that can grow and replicate on its own. By this definition, viruses are not life: they require a host to replicate, something we are currently reminded of time after time.
It is not dwelling in a scientific vacuum to ask these questions and doubt the current status quo of evolutionary thinking. In fact, all the fathers of science except Darwin believed in a young earth creation despite their hallmark accomplishments: Even Einstein. To his dying day, Einstein believed in a Creator along the lines of Spinoza’s god: a personal force inhabiting the entire natural world.
The whole story on climate change has yet to be written. We know from historical writings that previous centuries experienced dramatic climate change. Those periods have names: The Roman Cold Period, the Medieval Warm Period, and the Little Ice Age (ending around 1850 for which we have paintings of people skating on the rivers of northwest Europe that no longer freeze over, q.v. the Frost Fairs of England). Everyday new evidence is emerging that both the Arctic and Antarctic were once very green and fertile with forests. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that climate change may be a fact. But the cause of this climate change is yet to be proven in my opinion. Previous periods of climate change could not possibly have been due to higher than average atmospheric CO2 which should cause us to doubt the real cause of our current doubt. Some of the climate change banter is demonstrably false: there is no shortage of polar bears at the moment (see The Politics of Polar Bears, CBC, YouTube). The 1988 excavation of eight P38 U.S. war planes ditched in a 1942 snowstorm in Greenland were retrieved under 272 feet of ice. This rate of accumulation shows us that in an ice shield averaging a mile thick, only a thousand years ago Greenland was truly green.
The use and abuse of science necessitates critical thinking and certainly not herd mentality. If Jesus traced his own human ancestry through Joseph back a little more than four thousand years in the first century (Luke 3), than that should confirm that something is fishy about historic science…unless you wish to believe his other promises and truths were also misguided!
The last book of the Bible is so important that his has permeated the English language: Who hasn’t heard of “the mark of the beast”, “666”, or “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”? Full of imagery, the book remained a doubtful part of the Bible. Martin Luther proclaimed it “neither apostolic nor prophetic” and was skeptical of its inspiration. Yet it was always a part of the New Testament canon. Although thousands of books, booklets, documentaries, and films have been made about it, no one has ever explained all of its contents, the meaning of its imagery, or its overall structure. Discover how relevant this apocalyptic book to our times today and what it really means. Read on…
What is the Book of Life in Revelation?
An overlooked part of the last book of the Bible is the Book of life mentioned in Revelation 20. It is mentioned some seven times in total in this apocalypse. What is it and is it important to know about?
Its most important mention is in Revelation 20 where it is associated with the second and final resurrection. Yes, Revelation 20 refers to TWO resurrections separated by a thousand years (Rev. 20:5-6; Heb. 4). The first one occurs at the end of THIS age, coming very soon (Matt. 24: 40; 1 Thess. 4:15). Some confuse this resurrection with the “rapture”, a word that isn’t found in scripture and a doctrine that is entangled with heaven as the ultimate destiny of salvation. (Jesus taught us that only he has gone to heaven so far, Jn. 3:13). The SECOND resurrection is sometimes referred to in the context of the “Great White Throne Judgment” (Rev. 20:11).
Thus, in the next verse of this same chapter we read:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened: And another book was opened which is the BOOK OF LIFE: And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it and death and hades delivered up the dead who were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Rev 20:12-13)
From this scripture alone we learn that the book of life is really the book of ETERNAL life; that it is a book of a list of names of those who qualify for eternal life and salvation. BookS are mentioned which apparently contain their works or deeds, virtuous or wicked. Presumably besides these works are an indication if they have been repented of or not.
Remember, works are part of the true Christian’s walk with God. It is simply that our works or deeds do not JUSTIFY us or makes us righteous in God’s eyes. It is our faith in God’s FORGIVENESS, his grace, that justifies us in his eyes. Everyone sins, no matter how righteous they are. Thus, James admonition: “Faith without works is dead”: faith without works is a dead faith.
The passage in Rev. 20:12-13 is presented in the context of the second and final resurrection. This is the resurrection of all past humankind. It precedes their entry into the second and final stage of the kingdom of God. (The first resurrection at the end of this age is only open to those who have spent their lives following Jesus’ teachings and way of life.)
But the book of life is mentioned elsewhere in the Old and New Testaments and you may be interested in learning more about it.
First of all, it is not just applicable for past humankind resurrected to judgment. It is also a precedent to the converted; to those who come up in the first resurrection at the end of this age. The Sardis era of God’s church is warned in Rev. 3, “He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white clothing; and I WILL NOT BLOT OUT HIS NAME OF THE BOOK OF LIFE, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Rev 3:5) This is the first of several scriptures indicating that our names are listed in the book of life from birth and can only be removed for wicked, unrepented behavior. Along this vein, King David prayed to remove his enemies from this same book of life (Ps. 69:28). Likewise, Moses prayed to have his own name removed from this book on behalf of the idolatrous Israelites (Ex. 32:32). God wouldn’t but made the individual Israelites responsible for having their names removed.
The book of life may also go by another name in Malachi 3:16. There it is referred to as “the book of rembrance” because God’s righteous peoples’ name were preserved in it for their future resurrection. Of such were the same first-century believers who helped the apostles according to Philippians (Philip. 4:3)
Therefore, the book of life is a VERY important book for, without your name listed in it, you cannot enter the kingdom of God and eternal life. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev 20:15) The rich man lost his place even though he begged for a second chance for his brothers (Lk. 16:19). So will the millions who cared nothing for the brethren of Jesus Christ mentioned as “goats” in Matthew 25:31: those hard-hearted people who lack hospitality during their lives like the rich man did.
At the end of this age numeous peoples of the world get caught up in worshiping a major evil superpower. Of course, this superpower beast is defeated upon Jesus’ return to earth. Those who foolishly worshiped this beast power have their names removed from the book of life: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the beast leader], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8) This scripture is correct as it is but it may be a slight mistranslation of Rev. 17:8: “The beast that you saw was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition. And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” (Rev 17:8) Although God is timeless and so both translations are correct, it may be the slight difference in the book of life versus the slain Lamb [Christ]. But both are true.
And as Isaiah 65 mentions, no one who hurts or destroys shall be in that future kingdom of God on earth: “And there shall in no way enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination, or makes a lie: but they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”(Rev 21:27)
And, just for good measure, we are warned not to alter these sure prophecies of the Bible: “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life and out of the holy city [the new Jerusalem] and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev 22:19)
You may have glossed over the importance of the book of life. But a careful study of the above scriptures makes us realize its importance.
The Rise of a Eurasian Superpower
The framework for end-time prophecy began with the prophet, Daniel, and ends with the book of Revelation. What did Daniel foresee for the end times preceding Jesus Christ’s return to earth? What was the gathering storm he saw and where did it arise from? Who were the nations and leaders involved in uniting to oppose Jesus’ return to earth? Both Old and New Testaments provide an unmistakable pattern that clearly identifies the nations and peoples involved and the end-time conflict between the kings of the north and the south. Find out who these nations are and how they are a presently active already on the global stage. Read more…
The Framework for the End of the Age
The two apocalypses, Daniel and Revelation, provide us with the only real framework of the end of this age. That being said, we know we are living in those times right now because of two end-time predictions Daniel and Jesus made. Jesus told us that, unless he intervened for the elect’s sake, no flesh would be saved alive (Matt. 24:22). This would imply he would be returning some time in the Nuclear Age (after 1970 when the world became capable of annihilating all human life). Daniel was told by an angel to be patient and wait for the last days where people would be traveling to and fro and knowledge would be increased: both the Jet Age and the Information Age (including the internet and its applications).
Daniel 2 and 7 contains two visions of four world empires lasting from Daniel’s generation down to the return of Jesus and the kingdom of God. He received these visions in the forms of a human image (statue) and four beasts. Babylon was the first beast followed by Persia followed by Greece followed by Rome, the fourth beast. But Daniel 7 mentions ten horns or dynasties lasting down to the end of this age.
Another little horn “plucked up by the roots” the first three of this fourth beast’s horns. It was actually stronger though stouter than the others and appeared as a pompous humane entity: in other words, a false church empowering this 10-stage Roman Empire. The first three horns were eventually absorbed by this false church: The Roman Republic (Julius Caesar), the Empire (Caesar Augustus), and the Divided Empire (Constantine the Great). The Roman Empire officially adopted this false version of Christianity.
It almost died in the 5th century but survived until the 15th in Byzantium (Constantinople). It finally fell to the Muslims. But in 800 AD it started up again bearing a new blasphemous name, the HOLY Roman Empire. This is where Revelation 13 takes over the development for the end-time beast power. What remained after the usurped dynasties of ancient Rome was a seven-headed beast, the Holy Roman Empire: But only five of its dynasties passed until it was eventually politically “wounded” by Napoleon and the French Empire in 1806. Those five dynasties were the Carolingian (Charlemagne), Ottonian, Salian, Hohenstaufen, and, finally, Habsburg that ended in 1806. This left two heads of this end-time beast to still play out. And this is where we are now: on the cusp of a resurrected Holy Roman Empire, a Eurasian superpower with economic and military prowess united by some form of false Christianity. But where will its leadership come from, not just its political structure?
The Apostles Paul and John give us a clue as well as Jesus himself. Paul told the Thessalonians that the end would not come before a man of sin, a son of perdition, appeared. John simply called him the antichrist, one who both opposed and tried to supplant Christ at his return.
Jesus indirectly referred to this wicked individual pointing us back to Daniel 8 and 11. He taught his disciples that one of the signs of his imminent return to earth was the recapitulation of “the abomination of desolation” Daniel spoke of (Matt. 24:15), a phrase Luke correctly interpreted as “armies surrounding Jerusalem” (Luke 21).
The original precursor of Daniel 8 and 11’s final run was the Hellenistic Empire internal wars between its king(dom) of the north, Seleucia, and its king(dom) of the south, Ptolemaic Egypt. It came to a crescendo with the wicked Seleucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes who sacked Jerusalem and killed 40 thousand Jewish men, women, and children and enslaved an equal number. But Daniel 11’s prophecy stopped with verse 36: Antiochus never claimed to be god; he sacrificed a sow on the temple altar in Jerusalem thereby desecrating it.
Yet Jesus predicted it would play out one last time and to completion. It turns out that it did start up again after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The French Empire was defeated and its territory divided among the four victors of that war. The new king(dom) of the north was now Russia; the new king(dom) was Germany.
A careful scrutiny of Daniel 11 begins with the German king of the south, Kaiser Wilhelm and his up and coming prince, Prince Otto von Bismarck. It mentions the marriage contract with Tsar Nicholas II and the assassination of his family. It then plows through the Russian-German battles of the first and second world wars, including a new king of the south’s murdering of thousands of his own peoples (the Holocaust).
It then mentions a new king of the north “who takes away the shame of his country”, Gorbachev. After him a new king of the north arises who is a “raiser of taxes”, Yeltsin who dies peacefully. Then his successor is introduced, a vile, contemptuous individual to whom “they will not accord the honor of royalty”. President Putin is illegitimately related to all the royal houses of Europe.
This is the framework of prophecy that inflames the entire world and encroaches into the Middle East, desolating Jerusalem one final time bringing together various opposition forces including the Islamic world (nations dwelling near the Euphrates River, the 6th Bowl of Wrath mentioned in Revelation 16. This final Battle of Armageddon is the showdown that occurs at which point Jesus intervenes (Rev. 16:16).
The current status of Russia demands attention and monitoring as it ascends to being a world superpower ready to facilitate a trading bloc with military might and religious unity under the banner of false Christianity.
Government and the Kingdom of God
The Gospel of the New Testament was the same glad tidings of the Old. Gospel is a 16th-century translation of the English glad tidings or good news.
The original Gospel was specifically a positive message about the coming kingdom of God on earth. That good news was about a government and its realm: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” (Mark 1:14) So, while Jesus is to return to earth and be its ruler, the Gospel was not focused on his personal role but rather a glorious future age comes to this earth ruled by a perfect government.
We can see into the future a little about its eventuality by reading certain Old Testament scriptures:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us, a son is given: And the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called ‘Wonderful’, ‘Counselor’, ‘The mighty God’, ‘The everlasting Father’, ‘The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
To complete the picture even further, we read:
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots [Jesus]: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD: And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes neither reprove after the hearing of his ears. But with righteousness shall he judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.
And he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the belt of his loins, and faithfulness the belt of his waist.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together. And a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed: their young ones shall lie down together. And the lion shall eat straw like the ox and the nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:1-9)
I once an avid student of political science: the study of governments and their structures; the rule of law and the wielding of power, influence, and authority. I came to realize that Sir Winston Churchill was right: “Democracy is the worst form of government…except for all the rest!”
While the national aspiration of the British Commonwealth countries is peace, order, and good government, the national aspiration of the United States is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nowadays, both should be joined together progressively: First give us peace, order, and good government, and then if attained, go on to give us life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
All of us want to pursue happiness but we should feel thankful for mere contentment.
Defining governments are broadly limited to authoritarian or democratic. Within these two categories are more specific descriptions: presidential constitutional governments, constitutional monarchies, etc. Many Islamic governments are theocratic oligarchies.
The kingdom of God promises to be a constitutional monarchy not unlike the UK’s except that the monarch will be Jesus Christ and his appointed counselors: its constitution will be the Law of God summarized by the Ten Commandments.
But it will be a perfect government where everyone’s importance will be valued. Massive social changes will be forthcoming including environmental renewal, educational reform, economic rehabilitation, and a revised lifestyle model. The right kind of arts will prevail and optimal food production.
The desert will bloom like a rose and the lame shall leap like the hart (Isa. 35:1; 6), and that realm will be known as the land without walls having neither bars nor gates (Ezek. 38:11).
Huge population centers will no longer be allowed, the deserts shall be subject to land reform, healthcare will involve miraculous healings and preventative health reforms will lead to a new glorious age of peace, prosperity, and abundant health. Right here on earth!
It’s hard to imagine such an ideal world but this is the Gospel Jesus Christ taught over 2,000 years ago.
The government will be full of individuals who have spent a lifetime developing the mind and power of God. They will rule under Christ’s watchful eye guaranteeing justice to all and intervening where necessary to ensure it. No injustice shall go unresolved and the only tears will be those of the weeping willow!
The kingdom will be both a government and a realm. For those wishing to secure a place in its government, Jesus taught us we go through a process outlined in John 3:3-8. Those that will rule must be begotten again of water and spirit, the two baptisms Hebrew 6:1 speaks of. Water baptism acknowledges Jesus is our Savior and our leader throughout this life. The second baptism is immersion into the holy spirit, the mind and power of God through the laying on of hands. It is only performed only after a short period proving our commitment and qualification for a future office in that wonderful government. Thus, we are begotten of water and the spirit. If we complete this progress, than we will be transformed into invisible spirit beings at Jesus’ return to earth. “That which of the flesh is fleshly; that which is of the spirit is spirit,” as Jesus said. We become invisible like the wind is, highly effective but directly unseen by the naked eye.
As for the subjects of that future realm, they will simply have to live and survive the tumults of these end times, transforming themselves into the best version of themselves as physical flesh-and-blood humans. Although uncalled and not chosen, they must continue to build virtuous character and not have their names removed from the Book of Life (Rev. 20). Upon Jesus’ return, they will be judged based on their names appearing in this book and be allowed into that fabulous age. Remember, no one will hurt or destroy who is allowed to enter that holy kingdom!
What a golden age to look forward to in these present times of distress! □
Russia and China Against the West?
A recent editorial in the British newspaper, The Guardian, astutely takes a step back and views the new world order emerging: Russian Europe and East Asia against the English-speaking powers.
He sees this, strangely enough, as a fulfillment of George Orwell’s dystopian world view in his classic book, Nineteen Eighty-Four. “What’s now unfolding could be portrayed as the ultimate fulfillment of George Orwell’s nightmarish vision, in his dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, of a world, divided geographically, politically and militarily into three rival super-states: Oceania (North America plus Britain), Eurasia (Russia and Europe), and Eastasia (China).” (The Guardian, Apr 11, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/11/china-v-russia-v-america-is-2021-the-year-orwells-1984-comes-true )
This is exactly what the Bible predicts as an end-time framework of prophecy. At the moment, Russia is contemplating a new Ukraine offensive warding off Ukrainian plans to take back Crimea. At the same time, Russia is acting in expansive terms of threatening the Baltic and Scandinavian states along with the Arctic.
The motive behind President Putin’s renewed aggressive actions may be a political one. A recent poll has assessed his popularity ratings at only 32%. A recent piece of legislation has enabled Putin to remain President until 2036 and the Navalny incident hasn’t helped his popularity. One speculation I offer is that he may bolster his popularity through an alliance with a religious leader: one from either the Russian Orthodox Church or even Rome. The Russians are a very religious people: its history is intimately woven with its past “saints” and famously preserved in its iconography. Such a leader and ally could be Patriarch Kirill, once an operative of the KGB in Soviet times. In the recent past, there has been tension between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church even though they share much of the same theologies (both a branch of the Eastern Orthodox tradition).
If the commentator, Simon Tisdall, is correct, there may be war coming this spring. Of course, it probably will not be the final apocalyptic wars the books of Daniel and Revelation foresee, but it could be the beginning of the end and the seeds of a ten-nation Eurasian superpower bloc led by Russia. Its battles with the “king(dom) of the south” could involve the German-led European Union even in the guise of political unification.
Let’s keep our eyes open. □
How the Biblical Worldview is an Answer to Racism
The Bible is not compatible with mainstream science regarding origins. The scriptures teach a relatively recent creation of only some six thousand years ago; science believes in deep time spanning billions of years. The Bible teaches God created time; historic science assumes time always existed. Creation out of nothing is what the scriptures teach; evolution by random chance over a period of deep time is how conventional science explains our sophisticated universe, earth, and its myriad life forms. Modern science cannot explain the origin of the races; the Bible explains it perfectly and logically in harmony with modern genetics.
As for racism, the Bible provides an answer to the sociology of hatred between peoples who bear different physical traits. This explanation can be extended to discrimination and antisemitism and any sort of “other-dom”
The Bible teaches that the creation week occurred only a little more than 6 thousand years ago. Jesus traced his stepfather’s ancestry back to Adam and the Bible verifies this to be the sixth day of creation (Luke 3). Unless we are prepared to dismiss the other teachings and doctrines of Jesus of Nazareth, we are obligated to believe the inspired word of the Bible. Otherwise, we are hypocrites.
The Bible also teaches an instantaneous creation out of nothing: creation ex nihilo. Out of an invisible spiritual realm of superior intelligence, our physical universe, our earth, its scientific laws and forces (including time), and its myriad life forms came into being in just 6 days: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them…” (Exodus 20:11)
Therefore, the biblical account contradicts the notion of deep time. Nowhere do the scriptures imply a Gap Theory whereby there was a re-creation of the earth with billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Verse 2 CANNOT be rendered “became” without form and void instead of “was” without form and void. The Hebrew noun-verb order necessitates “was”. See Karl and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament. To change it so would require similar changes in Jonah 3:3 and Zechariah 3:3 which would be illogical in context.
The root of racism is ignorance: believing that humans are more than one race. This is false. Humanity is one race created in the image of the Godhead. God, too, although invisible has hands, eyes, ears, legs, feet, etc. to his image form. Adam and Eve were created with the original gene pool of humankind. All of Eve’s children bore the physical traits that all future humanity was to feature.
Just as all housecats trace genetically back to a proto-African wildcat, modern housecats feature coats of various fur colors and face shapes. Some have long tails and others bobtails. There are some 78 species of housecats today of various distinct traits. Even more so are the various physical traits in all dogs, all tracing back to the original wolf ancestor. Over 450 breeds of dogs display the genetic variation inherent in the ancestral wolf. Of course, once breeds mate and produce offspring, genetic speciation occurs after successive generations. Dominant genes ensure the perpetuation of a particular breed while recessive genes make it increasingly unlikely to produce new species.
So it was with Adam and Eve. Whether the tradition is true and Eve produced 52 sons and daughters, it would be quite possible for this to be so given the tremendously long lives they lived (Adam lived to 800 years). And they did give birth to sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4). Therefore, applying modern genetics to everyone’s first ancestors, it was perfectly alright for Adam’s sons to marry his daughters as there were no mutations yet. (The reason for consanguinity prohibitions is because of these mutations aggregating in offspring.) All skin colors, all facial types, all hair types, were the product of Eve’s births on account of her vast gene pool.
Just ten generations later, Noah and his wife gave birth to three sons who had wives. The gene pool hadn’t diminished significantly even though it was more than 1600 years later. Again, the offspring of Shem, Ham, and Japheth were founders of tribes and nations but they, along with their offspring, bore a myriad of physical traits.
It is only from other historical accounts that we know that Tiras’ descendants were Thracians (Josephus) who were described as being “flame-haired” and therefore probably fair-skinned. But we don’t know any physical description of Japheth, ancestor of the Greek Ionians and one of their Titans, Iapetos. Javan was the ancestor of the original Greeks but his son, Khitay was the ancestor of the Kittim (ancestral Cypriots) who later migrated to northern China becoming the Khitans, founder of the Liao Dynasty. Apparently, the Mongolian peoples have always known they are descendants of another of Japheth’s descendants, Magog (Mongol = Mogol = Magog).
Nor do we know that Ham was dark-skinned although one of his offspring, Cush, the ancestor of Ethiopians definitely was (Jeremiah 13:23). Yet Ham’s other descendants, the Amorites, drew themselves with blue eyes and blonde hair (according to Oxford Assyriologist, Archibald Sayce, regarding the Amurru). Sill other Hamitic descendants, the Phoenicians, were reputedly red-haired. Rahab, a Jebusite (a Jerusalem Canaanite descended from Ham), became an ancestor in Jesus’ royal Judaic ancestry.
Whatever, physical traits were not part of Noah’s descendants became so by intermarriage, conquest, or slavery.
The confusion of languages occurring at Babel occurred some 200 years AFTER the Great Flood and would have further contributed to enhanced a genetic narrowing (based on the assumption that marriages would be more frequent between men and women who spoke each other’s language).
History has shown that wars, conquests, slavery, isolated populations, and rape, produced a humanity of various physical traits. But these varieties all belonged to the human race just as much as various housecats or dog breeds retain their family status as canines or felines. We should celebrate the diversity!
What racism may reflect is the greater problem of other-dom. Sometimes people stand out because they are different than the world that we’re used to. A society of Anglo-Saxon-Celtic descendants may be wary of a darker-skinned person who moves into their community. Or a traditionally Protestant or Catholic population may resent an increasing number of Muslims moving into their world; even more so if they choose to build a mosque. Generalizations, of course, always flourish. Radical Muslims may be confused with everyday peace-loving Islamic believers.
Then, too, minorities may be perceived as threats to population majorities until their numbers grow and increase in political and cultural influence.
Hard-working immigrant Asian peoples may be taken as a threat confusing them with their distant native Asians who are sourced as originators of an infectious disease. (This is patently unfair as the 1918 pandemic flu was traced to Fort Riley, Kansas. So it was called the Spanish Flu even though it did not originate in Spain.) So pervasive is the spirit of other-dom that people of different religious backgrounds can be marginalized and discriminated against, too. Antisemitism is a strange phenomenon nowadays insofar as many claiming to be atheists are unbothered by discrimination. Why the persecution of those who don’t believe in Jesus? Isn’t atheism, by comparison, worse? Jesus was Jewish as some four scriptures plainly attest yet those of mainstream Christian identity are not unknown to be anti-Semitic. Not just Jesus, but his disciples were also Jewish.
Anti-Islam sentiment has emerged in the past perhaps due to the special apparel worn by females. Yet, no such sentiment was expressed when Catholic nuns wore their black-and-white habits. All of this can be summed up by simply identifying it as “anti-other-dom” and resistance to change.
The Bible does record certain preferences that might illustrate this nostalgia for traditional cultures. Abraham did not want his son, Isaac, to marry one of the daughters of the Canaanites and sent him back to his native country, Chaldea, to find one (Rebekah). But this may have been on religious grounds, not racial ones. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, did not want her son, Jacob to marry a maiden from the daughters of Heth (Hittites) because they had “wearied her so”. (Genesis 24:4), Despite the fact that the relations between Abraham and the Hittites were one of mutual respect (he purchased a burial lot from them for Sarah when she died). King David had Hittites in his army (i.e. Uriah) who were among his best warriors.
Moses bore discrimination on the part of his brother, Aaron, and Miriam on account of him marrying an Ethiopian woman (a woman of Cush) after his first wife’s death. Presumably, she had dark skin yet God supported Moses and cursed Aaron and Miriam with temporary leprosy (Numbers 12).
Intermarriage was allowed between Israelites and their conquered peoples (Deuteronomy 21:10-13). This may have produced children of various physical traits.
The church of God accepted peoples of various ethnicities. On the first day that the holy spirit came upon the apostles, 3,000 of various nations and backgrounds were welcomed into that fledgling community of believers (Acts2). You can see, therefore, that a biblical worldview is not so regressive as intellectuals might argue. that it explains the different races far more satisfactorily than mainstream science.
And it produces the sudden awareness that we are all ONE race and not many. Just as cats and dogs accept each other without prejudice, humans can too. Certainly, it is understandable when people are uncomfortable with unfamiliar cultures and “foreigners”. But this tendency is to avoided and certainly not passed onto children who haven’t yet learned how to hate.
It is with a special poignancy that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote this song, “Carefully Taught“. They were asked to remove it from the movie version of South Pacific but they insisted on keeping it in. □
Are We Living in the Days of the Fourth Horseman?
I have written earlier that the general period of history we are now living in fits with what the Bible defines as the end of the age.
The prophet, Daniel, was told that, at the end of this age, people would be traveling to and fro and knowledge would be increased (Dan. 12:4): that is to say the Jet Age and the Information Age (including the Internet Age). Jesus warned his disciples in the Olivet Prophecy that, unless these end times were shortened for the elect’s sake, no flesh would be saved alive: in other words, our Nuclear Age.
The first sequence of end-time events to play out is the Seven Seals, the first four of which are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The first horseman rides a white horse and focuses on the rider wearing a crown, holding a bow, and going forth to conquer (Rev. 6:1-2). But his conquests are not military ones else the second horse to come wouldn’t be linked to war: taking peace from the earth. The parallel passage to this is Matt. 24:5 and religious deception at the hand of those who indeed preach Christ by name but falsely. Today, there are at least 54 thousand religions and sects claiming to be Christian but, logically, cannot possibly be so because the true Christ is not divided: he told us a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Lk. 11:17; the inspiration for President Lincoln’s famous words).
The second horseman brings war: actually wars and rumors of wars Jesus taught us (Matt. 24:6). And today? “The number of armed conflicts in the world in 2017 was 49, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP). Nearly 69,000 people were killed as a direct consequence of state-based armed conflicts in 2017, a decline from the high of 104,000 in 2014 and 88,000 in 2016.” However, as of 2021, the World Population Review lists 232 conflicts. See https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/countries-currently-at-war . Enough said: There have never been so many active conflicts in world history.
The third horseman rides a black horse and speaks of hunger, food shortages resulting in inflation, and carefully weighing out foodstuff being careful not to waste any (Rev. 6:5-6), Jesus included this as a corollary of the first two horses and the last horse, pestilence (Matt. 24:7). We are at a global crisis level in this area: “there are currently 151 million people facing acute hunger, including 31 million at severe risk across 40 countries.” So reports RiseAgainstHunger.org. Another source lists 270 million people currently experiencing hunger. A telling headline from Global News blares “2021 will have ‘famines of biblical proportions,’ Nobel UN agency warns”. See https://globalnews.ca/news/7463318/un-famine-worsens-2021/ . So we are now living in times of famine too.
But, specifically, it is the fourth horseman, a pale horse, that seems to be facing us around the world right now:
“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on it was Death, and Hades [the grave] followed with him. And power was given unto them OVER THE FOURTH PART OF THE EARTH, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, AND WITH THE LIVING CREATURES OF THE EARTH.” (Revelation 6:8)
As with Jesus’ description in the Olivet Prophecy, the fourth horse or seal foresees 25% of the world population (7.8 billion in 2020) perishing from war, hunger, and “living creatures”. Jesus refers to these living creatures as a pestilence. Pestilence is disease: disease of all types including infectious diseases. From the World Health Organization, we learn that zoonotic diseases (human diseases caught from animals) have increased to 75% of all diseases, zoonotic or otherwise. There are over 200 known zoonotic diseases. “Zoonotic diseases are very common, both in the United States and around the world. Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.” According to the CDC (Centers of Disease Control), “Zoonotic diseases are very common, both in the United States and around the world. Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.” (https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/zoonotic-diseases.html#:~:text=Zoonotic%20diseases%20are%20very%20common,in%20people%20come%20from%20animals .) The WHO also records that growth in zoonotic disease has grown over the last two decades.
Rather than reading the Fourth Horseman and picturing wild bears or wild cats suddenly running up to you and mauling you in the nearest parking lot, you might want to stretch your mind a little further and recognize that this fourth seal of pestilence is already besieging us. It is mutating and garnering resistance to vaccines and precipitating all manner of public health policies affecting our human happiness, mental wellbeing, and even employment. Some are even blaming it for growing domestic violence and civil strife in our societies.
Are we living in the days of the Fourth Seal, the Fourth Horseman? I lay the evidence before you and you must decide. If so, there are only two seals left before the last sequence of this age emerges, the Seven Bowls of Wrath (aka the Seven Last Plagues, Rev. 16).
That future front is also materializing: Russia is amassing huge numbers of troops on the border of Ukraine ready to implement the re-conquest of that sovereign power. And you know what they say about Russia and Ukraine: “Russia without Ukraine is just a country; with Ukraine, it is an empire.”
Times, they are a-changin’.
Timespan of the
Timespan of the Book of Revelation
The book of Revelation covers a period of time that began about the latter half of the first century AD and leads up to a second phase of the kingdom of God about a thousand years from now.
It is addressed to the seven congregations of the church of God in Asia Minor. While those congregations existed in the first century, they were intended to represent church eras according to the imagery of Revelation 5:6, the seven horns (eras) of the slain Lamb standing in the midst of God’s throne.
The first of these church eras was the Ephesian one begun by the Apostle Paul in Acts 19:1, sometime after 50 AD.
Presuming we are living at the end of the Age of Man in this generation, Jesus Christ is expected to return to earth very shortly. What will precede his imminent return is a period of 7 tumultuous years, 3 ½ of which may have already begun as the Seven Seals and 3 ½ will ensue as the Seven Bowls of Wrath (aka Seven Last Plagues). These latter Bowls of Wrath are also known in the Bible as the Day of the Lord, Day of God’s Vengeance, or Day of Wrath.
The completion of the above 7-year period follows the ushering in of the 1000-year first stage of the kingdom of God on earth. It will be a golden age of peace, prosperity, and health, ruled by a government ruled by Jesus and his converted followers.
Toward the end of that first thousand years of the kingdom, another upheaval will occur with a recapitulation of the Bowls of Wrath called the Seven Trumpet Plagues. Jesus intervenes one final time and conquers a final rebellion of humanity against his kingdom.
In the aftermath of this latter-day rebellion comes the second and final stage of the kingdom of God inhabited by all past peoples who are resurrected and judged and found qualified to enter it by virtue of their names appearing in the book of life.
This is the overall timespan covered by the book of Revelation.
Why do the cataclysmic events occupy the final seven years of this age? Because of Daniel’s Seventy-Week Prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27. The seventy weeks were destined to be 70 weeks of years, the first 69 leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. The 70th week of years was to “make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy [ones].” (Daniel 9:24) Because the end of sins, reconciliation for iniquity, everlasting righteousness, the end of vision and prophecy, and the anointing of the holiest ones, has not yet been accomplished, this final week years will fulfill this prophecy. The “desolations” that complete this week begin with the first of the Seven Seals, the First Horseman of the Apocalypse, and end with the final battle defeating the military beast power with Jesus’ return to earth.
Historically, the antitype of this was the First Jewish-Roman War. The desolations began in 67 AD with Vespasian with the sack of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 and the wrap-up at Masada by Silva in 73. According to Josephus, Titus slaughtered 1.1 million non-combatants in Jerusalem and 100,000 in Galilee with 97,000 being enslaved. He also demolished the temple. But, of course, this antitype did not signal the completion Daniel had seen in his vision: The end of sin and everlasting righteousness was not yet ushered in, let alone the final anointing of the holiest ones, God’s elect.
The lead-up to the final resurrection of Revelation 20 is much shorter, only the 3 ½ years of the Seven Trumpet Plagues (the 5th one sees the release of Satan and his demons from the abyss they have been restrained in for the previous thousand years, q.v Rev. 20).
The last half of the 6th Trumpet and all of the 7th are dual: They occur twice, at the end of THIS AGE and again at the end of the first millennium. It is the interruption of Revelation 10 that makes the last two Trumpets dual. While a continuation of the Seven Trumpet trajectory of Revelation 8, it represents a flashback to our age and the 6th and 7th Bowls of Wrath (the last bowl also signifies Jesus’ return with the words, “It is done”, Rev. 16:17) Thus, the language and imagery of the 7th Trumpet, the last trump, is also dual. It includes the prophets and the apostles (OT & NT) and the 24 elders (12 representatives of the 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles): all of which are present in the aftermath of Jesus’s final intervention and the second resurrection to the final stage of the kingdom experienced by ancient Israel and the rest of humankind (q.v. Rev. 21:12-14 regarding the 24 elders).
This is the overall timespan of Revelation but, of course, the end of the Age of Man begins very soon, perhaps just a few years from now. Perhaps, we are in denial as to how close we are at the moment. There are signs we may be approaching a momentous climax in history.
Which John Wrote the Book of Revelation?
We are informed at the very beginning of Revelation that it is “the revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto him to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass, and he sent and revealed it by his angel unto his servant John.” (Revelation 1:1)
But which John? John the Baptist, The Apostle John, son of Zebedee, or John Mark, author of the second Gospel? Commentaries and scholars simply avoid this question calling the writer “John of Patmos” because the vision came to him on the isle of Patmos (a small Greek island off the west coast of Turkey).
The answer to this question involves a bit of cross-referencing and deduction. Before he was crucified, Jesus told his disciples that there were some standing before him who would not die before seeing the kingdom of God and himself returning to earth (Matt. 16:28; Luke 9:27).
Of course, this was some 2 thousand years ago and Jesus still stands at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 7).
Because Jesus was part of the Godhead but in the flesh as the Son of God, his consciousness was not subject to time like ours is. In other words, he could prophesy and experience déja vu. Notice that he never predicted that any of his apostles would live for thousands of years and see him returning to earth: he only predicted that some would see him coming back to earth and setting up his kingdom. He foretold this, though, before all of his disciples, including the Apostle John, son of Zebedee and brother of James (Matt. 10:2; 16:24).
Notice what John recorded in Revelation regarding the end of this age and the return of Christ:
“And I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse, and he that sat upon it was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness, he does judge and makes war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns, and he had a name written that no man knew but he himself. And he was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goes forth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron and he treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he has on his robe and on his thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice saying to all the fowls that fly in midheaven, ‘Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men both free and slave, both small and great.’ And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse and against his army.” (Revelation 19:11-19)
This is a vision of Jesus Christ returning to earth. This passage is preceded by the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) to his servants:
“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude as the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunderings saying, ‘Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him for the marriage of the Lamb [Christ] has come and his wife [the church of God] has made herself ready.'”(Revelation 19:6-7)
Not only did the Apostle John see Jesus returning to earth in his lifetime, he even saw a vision of the final stage of the kingdom of God in chapter 21 of Revelation: a new heaven, new earth, and a new Jerusalem descending from God’s heaven.
The new Jerusalem will have 12 gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel and 12 foundations named after Jesus’ 12 apostles: the 24 elders who preside over John’s vision given to him by an angel. It even describes its wall that encompasses the city where God the Father (newly descended to earth) will dwell and rule with his Son, Jesus Christ. Out of this holy city and their thrones will flow a river of life watering a new tree of life, bearing 12 fruits and many leaves for the healing of the nations.
Obviously, the John who saw and wrote Jesus’ vision of Revelation given by an angel was none other than the Apostle John. Let the Bible interpret itself and we are on safe ground.
Who Wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews?
As it stands, there are 21 epistles or letters in our New Testament. They are grouped according to their authors: The 14 epistles following the book of Acts are attributed to Paul and the last 7 to James, Peter, John, and Jude.
All of the epistles begin with a salutatory introduction and a concluding amen: all except the epistles of Hebrews and James. James begins with a salutatory introduction: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” (James 1:1) But the last chapter of James has no concluding amen (James 5:20).
On the other hand, the Epistle to the Hebrews has no introductory salutation but DOES have a concluding amen: “Grace be with you all. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:25)
Consequently, the authorship of Hebrews has always been questioned. Attributed to Paul, it doesn’t explicitly mention his name. Merely because of the mention of Timothy in Hebrews 13, a close colleague of Paul’s and the object of two of Paul’s epistles, scholars have concluded it must have been authored by Paul.
Originally, Hebrews had no title. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia records, “Modern scholarship has disputed the applicability of every word of this title. Neither does it appear in the oldest manuscripts, where we find simply “to Hebrews” (prós Hebraı́ous). This, too, seems to have been prefixed to the original writing by a collector or copyist.” In other words, unlike the other epistles, its title was written as an afterthought based on the author’s extensive knowledge of Hebrew history and the Old Covenant traditions.
But one thing there is no disagreement about: Hebrews was written in high-quality Greek, a quality found in only one other epistle, James. And so the ISBE compares the writing style of James’ epistle: “It is somewhat surprising to find that the Greek of the Epistle of James is better than that of the other New Testament writers, with the single exception of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews…..It is not the good Greek of the classics, and it is not the poor and provincial Greek of Paul.”
There is another aspect of Paul’s writing absent from Hebrews. Annoying to Trinitarians, Paul repeats a formulaic greeting in EVERY ONE of his known epistles which is absent from Hebrews. Beginning in Romans 1:7, Paul greets the Roman congregation of the church of God: “…Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7) Not wishing to get sidetracked by Paul’s omission of the holy spirit as a third person of the Godhead, he repeats this basic formula in every one of his following epistles: 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Philip. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; and Philem. 1:3. It is not present in Hebrews which increases our suspicions that it was not written by Paul.
Another suspicious factor is the author’s familiarity with Hebrew history. True, Paul was Jewish of the tribe of Benjamin, but his epistles were addressed to Gentile cities or other companions who taught in those Gentile areas. Paul was an apostle to the uncircumcised or Gentiles. But Hebrews draws upon the Old Testament traditions and knowledge of the temple and its sacrifices.
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Paul wrote the first 13 of his epistles but there is room for doubt regarding the Epistle to the Hebrews.
And now the solution to this mystery from the authority of the Bible itself.
Have you ever owned an old book that broke apart from its bindings? So it was that the Epistle of James, in its original format (scroll?) got separated from its latter half, Hebrews. If you read James from beginning to end and continue on reading Hebrews, it is seamless.
And it would be like all the other epistles having an introductory salutation and a concluding amen. It would start out naming James as its author addressing the 12 tribes scattered abroad, Hebrews! And it would conclude with an amen. This would make sense because the Apostle James, son of Zebedee, was an apostle to the circumcised and one of the original apostles Christ sent to the “lost children of Israel” of the Hebrew diaspora (Matt. 10).
But what about the mention of Paul’s traveling companion, Timothy in Hebrews 13? Paul was much persecuted and jailed more than once during his life. As such, it would be James who would assume Paul’s leadership role among the Gentile-situated congregations. Both James the son of Zebedee and James, the Lord’s brother, were based in Jerusalem (cp. Gal 1:19 & Acts 12:1). James, the son of Zebedee was actually martyred in Jerusalem at the hands of Herod.
Before his martyrdom, though, James would have been the perfect apostle to address the Hebrews scattered abroad. These were certainly situated abroad in the places mentioned in Acts 2:5,9-10, and possibly even further afield.
The conclusion seems obvious. The completion of the epistle like the other ones with an introduction and amen would indicate its author was James, the son of Zebedee. Its high-quality Greek substantiates this along with its knowledge of Hebrew history.
The absence of Paul’s greeting found in his 13 known epistles dictates Paul COULDN’T have written it. This and Paul’s own admission he was an apostle to the uncircumcision would also disqualify him from addressing Hebrews in the form of the 12 tribes scattered abroad.
A Closer Look at God’s Heaven
Jesus of Nazareth was certainly a historical person some 2 thousand years ago. At least 10 non-biblical writers attest to this; most of them mocked him. One Greek Olympiad historian even recorded the crucifixion darkness that fell over the land in 37 AD.
He didn’t especially stand out for his physical appearance: Judas Iscariot had to give him a familial kiss to identify him to the Roman soldiers who came to arrest him. The first paintings of him were not made until several centuries after he walked the earth: “The conventional image of a fully bearded Jesus with long hair emerged around AD 300.” Of course, this image was imagined and certainly contradictory to the New Testament traditions surrounding images in general. The Jews did not allow them fearing a violation of the second commandment against graven images. And he certainly didn’t have long hair if we are to believe his hand-picked apostle, Paul: “Does not even nature itself teach you that, if a man has long hair, it is a shame unto him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14) Obviously, Roman customs prevailed in Jesus’ first-century world featuring shorter hairstyles.
But the book of Revelation DOES describe Jesus as he looks today. Moreover, it even provides us with a glimpse of his abode, God’s heaven.
Heaven is a relative word in the Bible. There is the heaven which is our atmosphere: the setting for birds and clouds. There is also the heaven where the sun, moon, and stars abide: outer space. Finally, there is the heaven of God’s abode, somewhere in the farthest “sides” of the north (Isa. 14:13).
Jesus Christ was resurrected and returned to his place at the right hand of God the Father: a position he always took from the very beginning before he came to earth as a human (Ps. 110:1; Matt. 26:24; Mark 16:19; Jn. 17:5; Acts 2:13; 7:56). Sometimes the scriptures describe him as “sitting” at God’s right hand; other times he is “standing” there. It simply means he is part of the two-fold Godhead and has a close relationship with his heavenly Father. (Notice that the holy spirit is not a person of the Godhead else he would be at God’s left hand!)
In the first chapter of Revelation, we come to face to face with Christ as Alpha and Omega (beginning and end of the Greek alphabet) standing in the midst of seven lampstands (or candlesticks in some translations):
The Apostle John saw him in a vision “in the midst of the seven lampstands one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot and girded about the breast with a golden belt. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire; his feet like unto fine bronze as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shines in its strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I was dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, ‘Fear not; I am the first and the last.'” (Revelation 1:13-17)
Of course, this image of Jesus is not the familiar one we all see in the ubiquitous paintings and statues. But he is an invisible spirit being now in the close presence of his Father, the Most High God. But although he has a brilliant appearance full of light, notice that he still has a chest, feet, voice, hands, mouth, and face like a human being but in spirit form, not flesh-and-blood. This is perhaps the part of the spirit realm we have difficulty understanding. It is the same invisible realm that brought into being our physical universe, its earth, and all that is in them. Although not readily visible, it is the “something” that gave birth to our material reality.
And where is Jesus at the moment? He is in God’s heaven, a heaven described in Revelation 4:
“After this, I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven and the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet talking with me which said: ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter.’ And immediately I was in the spirit and, behold, a throne was set in heaven and one sat on the throne. And he that sat there was to look upon like a jasper and a carnelian stone: And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in appearance like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones, and upon the thrones, I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white clothing; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightning, thunderings, and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne which are the seven spirits of God. And before the throne, there was a sea of glass like unto crystal, and in the midst of the throne and round about the throne were four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures had each of them six wings about him, and they were full of eyes within, and they rest not day and night saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ And when those living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him that sits on the throne who lives forever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that is sitting on the throne, and worship him that lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.'” (Revelation 4:1-11)
This description of God’s heaven is where Jesus now resides. The exact setting is the Day of the Lord (Rev. 1:10 ISV) some thousand-plus years in the future because the 24 elders surrounding the throne are the resurrected representatives of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles: this according to Revelation 21:12-14. Only both of these people are resurrected by the Day of the Lord leading up to the second resurrection.
The four living creatures mentioned are angels, specifically seraphim, because they have six wings and are found elsewhere in Isaiah praising God with ‘Holy, holy, holy’. (Isa. 6:2-3). Their four faces are common to all angels (Ezek. 1:10). (Who ever complimented another saying they had the face of an angel?!)
As to the precious and semi-precious minerals describing heaven, Jasper is a combination of quartz and/or chalcedony and other minerals. It is an opaque impure variety of silica, usually red, yellow, brown or green in color and even rarely blue. The common red color is due to iron inclusions. Jasper has a smooth surface and is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. It can be highly polished and is used for items such as vases, seals, and snuff boxes. You can see a photograph of it below although there are many different-colored versions of its with an equal variety of patterns.
Carnelian (also spelled Cornelian) is a brownish-red mineral commonly used as a semi-precious gemstone.
Chalcedony is a crystalline form of silica composed of very fine elements of quartz. Chalcedony has a waxy luster and may be semitransparent or translucent. It can assume a wide range of colors, but those most commonly seen are white to gray, grayish-blue, or a shade of brown ranging from pale to nearly black.
Again, we are faced with the difficulties of understanding this heavenly setting and comparing it to something here on earth. Perhaps we can envisage a highly ornate room in the most opulent palace on earth made of precious gems and metals exhibiting the most brilliant and otherworldly beauty. This is the residence of the Godhead: God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.
One of the differences between the two stages of the kingdom of God mentioned in Revelation 20 is the residence of the Godhead. When Christ returns at the end of THIS age, just a few years from now, he will dwell alone on earth in Jerusalem. But, in the second and final stage of the kingdom, God the Father will descend from his heaven and dwell with Christ on earth, the two of them ruling from Jerusalem. Both God and the Lamb will light Jerusalem 24 hours, seven days a week. Thus, the kingdom of God will truly be, what Matthew sometimes called it, the kingdom of heaven, ruled from heaven.
Perhaps this biblical description of Jesus and heaven will replace peoples’ mistaken impressions artists give us. Reality bites.
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