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Monday, 29 August 2011

300 Young People Saved - Yippee! - er..Really?

Recently the younger members of our church at Ascot attended Newday, a Christian festival held in the Midlands area of the United Kingdom. Many hundreds of young people attend annually from all over the nation, where they set up camp to listen to speakers deliver God's word to a large young audience inside a large marquee.

Newday 2010

Although not having attended this event myself, what I know of it, Newday to me is a reminiscence of former Christian festivals I attended in the past, Spring Harvest in Minehead, Somerset and Stoneleigh, near the city of Coventry. Both of these festivals involve deliverance of God's word in sermons designed to equip us in our own churches and in particularly as lights to shine in a sinning world.

One of the church's elders and also a personal friend of mine, Dave Rogers, announced from the front that at this year's Newday, up to 300 young people were saved, that is to say, repented and trusted in Jesus Christ to redeem them, as a result of regeneration of the inner man, to be adopted into God's family through faith.

With news like this, I should have shot up from my seat and shout with joy, "Yippee!" 300 more souls redeemed and destined for Heaven is fantastic news! There is a lot to praise and glorify God for. But instead I remained in my seat and quietly absorbed the news. Not because I am British, and as one is aware, emotions are things we British don't share. No. Rather I accepted the news with a dose of caution. And not because I have a pessimistic tendency, but rather I'm aware of the four kinds of hearts the seed of the Word of God can fall on.

It is found in Matthew 13:1-23. Here we read that Jesus Christ himself gave an illustration of four kinds of hearers who receive a divine message. The first group are those whose hearts are so hard that they are likened to a footpath, on which the surface had been compressed solid my the weight of many feet which trod upon it. Any seed which falls on the path tend to remain on the surface and becomes as vulnerable bird food. I doubt very much that any of the 300 saved at Newday were of this category.

But there was a high possibility of the three other categories who were there and believed the message. Of these one group represented the rocky ground. They are the ones that has a thin layer of soil. When the seeds fall, they remain until they germinate, but did not grow beyond the next day of hot sunshine when the heat scorched the young saplings to non-existence.

Then there is another group who also heard the word and believed. But they were attached to the world, not only in wealth and possessions but love for the culture too. They are represented by plants which choke out the space for the divine seedlings to grow.

I have heard sermons, either on tape or over the Internet, about these two groups. All agree that the first group, the footpath, were those who resisted then forgotten the message, therefore they cannot be saved. Also all agreed that the fourth group, the field of good soil on to where the seed was sown, produced the right sort of crops, represented truly saved people.

But disagreement arose about the other two, the rocky soil and the worldly soil. On the Internet I listened to a sermon delivered at the Calvary Community Church in California, insisting that these two groups - the rocky soil and the worldly soil were not truly saved people. Their sermon can be heard if one log in to the Living Waters website. On the other hand, some years ago I also listened to a taped message dealing with the reasons why these intermittent two groups were saved after all.

According to the taped message, they were saved because they believed the word of God. They based the assumption to what Jesus Christ himself said on occasion, that who ever hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24). And not forgetting the more famed John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that who ever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

These and other similar verses of Scripture were the basis of the message on why the rocky ground and the worldly ground were still saved. They were saved according to the promise made by Jesus himself, that is we are saved by hearing and believing.

But others, such as the speaker at the Calvary Community Church, disagree. He insisted that these two groups were not true believers. How come? They believed the word, didn't they? Yes they did. But their belief were only intellectual. "Jesus Christ? Yes, he was a great teacher, and taught some great things which all makes sense, just as it makes sense to say that a cloudless sky is blue." Full stop.

And it's here that I tend to agree with the Calvary Community Church. There is a difference between intellectual belief and trusting. Like believing that a chair is made for sitting on and actually sitting on the chair. I think here lies the heart of the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism on the subject of eternal security of the believer. This debate goes on on why the Scriptures seem to say at some points that a saved person cannot be lost while at other places it seems to say a person who has believed can still be lost.

Before I go any further, here I must stress that it is not up to me to say whether a believer is a true one or not. That only God can decide. But sooner or later the false convert will eventually reveal his true nature.

False convert? This phrase was used during the 19th Century Awakening, particularly in America. It is used at the Calvary Church today. It means that one's professed faith in Christ is not genuine. And sooner or later this will show. There are several types of false converts. One kind of emphasised by Charles G. Finney, the 19th Century New York evangelist.

Although I don't agree with Finney's Pelagian view of theology (the theory that the sinner can be saved by changing his own heart), he did produce some fine definitions of one kind of false convert. According to Finney, such a person does all the right things, such as attending church, prayer meetings, Bible study, serving others - out of fear of Hell and his attempt to prop up his hope for Heaven. Finney then quotes an example written by someone who debated against infidelity, "because (ignoring it) may ruin all my hopes for eternity." Finney then describes a test, to determine the genuineness of one's faith. The true Christian will always rejoice at the news of another person getting saved, even if he had no part in that person's conversion. The phony, on the other hand, will feel resentful if he had no part in it, and even more if the new Christian joins a church of another denomination or that of a rival minister.

Charles G. Finney

But it is the false convert described by the speaker (not named on the Internet) who is of greater interest here. This kind of person may not be motivated by fear at all, but more by apathy. He may, for a while, show an enthusiasm for Christ, perhaps to impress fellow Christians in the church or to ensure that he is accepted and makes friends. Or maybe to satisfy his Christian parents. But after a time, whether it will be for a few months or several years, he will disappear from the church. This is not because of a new job compelling him to move location. In that case he would join another church in his new location. Rather, the reason he leaves was because his professed faith had shrivelled up, and may even show hostility towards all spiritual things. And believe me, when I was a member of both Bracknell and Ascot Baptist Churches, I have seen young converts come and go, that is to say, left the faith altogether, often with hostility, or consumed in the pleasures of this world.

The key Scripture is found in 1 John 2:19 which reads:
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

In other words, lack of perseverance is proof of false conversion.

And this is, I believe lies at the heart of all "Arminian" Scriptures. Consider Hebrews 3:12:
See to it, brothers, that none of you (in the church fellowship) has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

Because in many ways it is difficult to tell the difference between the true and the false, those whose faith persevere in troubled times are most likely to have a true faith, as the Bible indicates, perseverance is in itself a gift from God. It comes in the same package as one's salvation, forgiveness of sins, a love for God and for each other and eternal life.

Let's look at the genuine believer now. Jesus refers to him as a field of good soil. He produces crops of beneficial value, up to a hundredfold. But there is more. A good test whether a believer is genuine is that he -
(a) does not sin continually and (1 John 3:6)
(b) he loves his Christian brothers. (1 John 3:10)
And both of these are found in the first letter of John.

The apostle also wrote that to say that we are sinless makes God a liar, for God says that we are sinful. (1 John 1:8) So what does John mean that the Christian does not sin? I think this means deliberate or planned sin. A Christian does not secretly steal nor is he dishonest with his money, neither does he tell a lie, nor throw insult to someone else simply out of dislike. But we are still subject to spontaneous sins, which we can call for forgiveness afterwards. A few days ago a door salesman was persuasive towards my wife who had already declined his offer. I came out and told him brusquely to beat a retreat. Afterward I realised that a more gentle approach would have been a better witness for Christ. I prayed for God's forgiveness and I believed that I received it.

A true believer will love his fellow brothers, and be ready to forgive if anyone, inside the church and out, asks for forgiveness if having offended. A true believer should not hold grudges, especially with someone who disagrees with him on certain issues. This is because the Spirit of Christ dwells in his heart, and God will always be there for him when he feels weak and needs strengthening.

And also the Holy Spirit in him will fill his heart with thankfulness, and that in particular can be true if I wake up in the morning knowing the uncertainty of the day ahead. At times of trouble he can remember that the Lord is his refuge and strength, a strong tower within the righteous run and within finds shelter. (Psalm 9:9, 46.)

The saving of the 300 people at Newday is tremendous news! I just hope this will be 300 more acres for crops to grow by a hundredfold. This would give us 30,000 acres of goodness which would glorify God and be a benefit to the churches and society as a whole. Not to mention Heavenly citizenship.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Noah's Flood Just a Folklore? Then No Salvation For Us!

Richard Dawkins stood on the podium at the middle of the stage, addressing a large audience inside the Sydney Opera House. He was purposely making mockery of any historical credit given to Noah and his family remaining safe by floating in a barge while the whole world lies underwater in a global flood.

He ridiculed those "religious nuts" who still believe in the reality of this folklore, while the better educated and the enlightened had long discarded such fables and adhered to scientific facts of organic evolution which had shaped us for the last 200,000,000 years, give or take.

The audience chuckled. Every hearer took delight in the speaker's ridicule of the Biblical narration. And I doubt that anyone in that audience had given a moment's thought on the repercussions if Dawkins was right all along and the Noachian Deluge (as the Biblical Flood is often addressed) was pure fiction after all.

As we shall see, the early chapters of Genesis hold the key to first, the very existence of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. Along with this, the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ himself was born into a Jewish family. At his very birth, his final destiny was to become King of Israel (Matthew 2:6, Luke 1:32-33). But before this, Jesus Christ had to die a criminal's death on a cross to atone for the sins of not only Israel but for the whole world.

After his death and his resurrection, he would become head of the Church, consisting of all people (mainly Gentile but open to any Jewish believer as well). In other words, us - all those who believe in him for our redemption and the eternal enjoyment of eternal life in God's presence. So we need to ask, where is the connection between Adam and Eve and the Noachian Deluge, the nation of Israel and the Church at present? Through what is called the Messianic Line, that is, from Adam his descendants includes Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (i.e. Israel), Judah, King David, Joseph husband of Mary (thus a legal guardian) and Mary herself, also a descendant of King David, who became the mother of Jesus, future King of Israel and the head of all true believers who make up all the churches in the world to this day.

Which leads to a major problem. If the Noachian Deluge, along with all the people and events recorded in the early chapters of Genesis, were fable and simply folklore, then all the churches we see around us to this day would have been non-existent, since the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ would not have occurred either. And without the Crucifixion of Christ, there would be no hope for any of us. Our lives would be extremely futile. Educated? Yes. Ambitious? Yes. But we would just live for a short while, die and tumble into Hell wondering just where we've gone wrong. Instead of blaming sin, inherited from the Fall of Adam and Eve, the explanation would be that something went seriously wrong in the final, explosive stages of our evolution, resulting in that all wrongdoing is not our fault, but due to "environmental factors".

Is this beginning to sound familiar?

As for the Summer riots which took place just a couple of weeks before this was written, one Politician, "Red" Ken Livingstone, ex-Mayor of London, began to blame the riots with an attractive explanation of "Government draconian cuts, lack of youth clubs and rising costs and unemployment." Not sin then, but shortfalls in the environment.

In this article I wish to discuss the plausibility of the Noachian Deluge and ask, is such an event scientifically viable?

In the last blog, we looked at the feasibility of Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, the time of the murder amidst a growing population. Here we'll look at the narrator's chronology leading to the Flood, and ask, why such detail? Then we take a brief look at the animals within the Ark, and then the genealogical line from Noah to Abraham.

Genesis chapter 5 gives the genealogical record from Adam to Noah, which is also part of the Messianic line from Adam to Christ. If Jesus Christ existed, died for our sins and risen from the dead three days later, then not only the beginning of his origin and the source of our salvation detailed, but also for existence for the nation of Israel, and its justification for its existence in the Middle East at present, to which Jesus Christ will return as its King sometime in the future. In short, without the historical truth of the events recorded in the early chapters of Genesis, the whole of the two Abrahamic faiths - Judaism and Christianity, together with the existence of the nation of Israel, would all crumble to dust.

The antediluvian chronicle is as follows:

Adam fathered Seth at 130 years of age, lived 800 years more, died at 930
Seth - Enosh at 105 - 807 years more, died at 912.
Enosh - Kenan at 90 - 815 years more, died at 905.
Kenan - Mahalalel at 70 - 840 years more, died at 910.
Mahalalel - Jared at 65 - 830 years more, died at 895.
Jared - Enoch at 162 - 800 years more, died at 962.
Enoch - Methusalah at 65 - 300 years, - was taken to Heaven alive at 365.
Methusalah - Lamech at 187 - 782 years more - died at 969.
Lamech - Noah at 182 - 595 years more, died at 777.
Noah - aged 600 when the Flood arrived.

It is interesting to realise that Methusalah is a prophetic name. It means, "The Flood comes when I die." By calculating the figures given above, we can see that Noah was 600 years when the flood came. Methusalah was 187 when his son Lamech was born, and Lamech was 182 years when Noah was born. So we can work out:

182+187=369 years - the age Methusalah was when Noah was born.
Noah's antediluvian lifespan right up to the Flood - 600 years.
Thus 600+369=969 years - the total age of Methusalah at the time of the Flood.

As for Lamech, he was 182 years old when his son Noah was born. He died at 777 years of age. Therefore Lamech lived 595 years after Noah's birth, which is five years short of the Flood which occurred in Noah's 600th year of his life. In other words, Methusalah outlived his own son by five years.

There is a likelihood that at the death of Methusalah, Noah panicked when he saw that the Ark was not quite ready. Therefore God assured him of seven more days before the catastrophe (Genesis 7:4). It seems odd to me if the event was merely folklore, why the narrator took so much effort in chronicling the age of each patriarch and the timing of the Flood since Creation.

But did every species of animal as we know them today entered the Ark. Unlikely. For a start, there was no need for marine life to enter the Ark. This not only include fishes, but marine mammals - Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises. Also animals that have survived outside the Ark included Crustaceans, coral, sponges, along with insects and possibly amphibians.

Then it has been demonstrated that many species of animal could have arisen from as little as one pair. Let us give a couple of examples:

There are up to nine related to the horse family. They are
Zebroid (cross between Horse and Zebra)
Kianger (cross between Onager and Kiang)
Mule (cross between Horse and Ass)

Likewise, the Canine family has eight varieties:
Artic Fox
Grey Fox
Red Fox
Dog (with its many varieties and sizes)

Source: John C. Whitcombe and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood.

The point is, each of these two families could have each arisen from a single pair.

This raises the likelihood that out of the total of seventeen animals listed above, only four entered the Ark, two of each family, the male and female. If this is true, then the number of species in the Ark would have been much fewer than the varieties we see today. Then again, it was very possible that the animals within the Ark would have spent much of their time in hibernation during the duration of the Flood.

After the Flood abated, and Noah's family along with all the life stock had disembarked from the Ark, we are told that Noah planted a vineyard and became drunk with the wine the fruit the harvest produced. This seemed to be out-of-step with the normal character of Noah! What made him turn to alcohol, after experiencing the salvation and deliverance God had performed for him? His loneliness.

We seem to forget that right up to the Flood itself, Noah had brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and many cousins. This we know because in Genesis 5, we are told that Methusalah became the father of Lamech, and fathered other sons and daughters. (v.26). So Noah had aunts and uncles. And in verse 30, we are told that Lamech had other sons and daughters. Therefore we can assume that Noah, prior to the Flood, was surrounded by his family. They most likely loved him enough to care for him, even if they disbelieved in God's revelation, perhaps thinking that their brother was a little nutty. Noah's heart must have been pining for his wider family to believe God's revelation and act accordingly. After the Flood, Noah and his seven adult family members were the only humans on the planet. His loneliness and loss of his wider family must have hit him hard! Little wonder he turned to alcohol. But does this mean that he has fallen away and lost his salvation? A pretty silly question to ask. Rather, his name appears in the Hall of Fame of faithful men in Hebrews 11:7. But the Scriptures show how human even the greatest saints can be.

Next, we shall take a look at the genealogy of post-deluge patriarchs, and how their longevity declined rapidly after the Flood. Although there may be several reasons for this, it is believed that the vast change of global climate had played a role in this, namely, the collapse of the antediluvian vapour canopy during the Flood which played a role in filtering out the more harmful of the sun's rays.

The list is as follows, and it's found in Genesis 11:
The lifespan of Noah - 950 years.
Of son Shem - 600 years.
Of son Arphaxad - 438 years.
Of son Shelah - 433 years.
Of son Eber - 464 years.
Of Son Peleg - 239 years.
Of son Rue - 239 years.
Of son Serug - 230 years.
Of son Nahor - 148 years.
Of son Terah - 205 Years.
From there we need to go further into the book to record the ages of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
Abraham - 175 years (Genesis 25:7).
Isaac - 180 years (Genesis 35:28).
Jacob (Israel) - 147 years (Genesis 47:28).
Joseph - 110 years - (Genesis 50:26).

So we see the dramatic drop of longevity from Noah's 950 years to Joseph's 110, which is much closer to today's reality than Noah's and his forefathers. But we see the continual lines of both the formation of the nation of Israel from Adam, and the Messianic line from Adam to Jacob, who was renamed Israel. Only Joseph branched off from the Messianic line, as this passed through his brother Judah, the fourth son of Jacob with his first wife Leah.

So the early chapters of Genesis are absolutely vital for the existence and survival of Israel, for the believing on Jesus Christ for our salvation and for the survival of the churches. Also, as was discussed in the last blog, the teaching and institution of marriage, children and the family are based on these early chapters.

Educated professors such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens do us no favours whatsoever in their books and theatrical speeches. It is about time too that Christians study and believe these chapters to strengthen their own faith and to encourage others.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Adam and Eve - Historical? You MUST be Joking!!!

It was my intention to write about the truth of pre-Abrahamic Scriptures, as this was on my mind for the past week. The idea was stirred in my heart after the Media delivered report after report of the riots which at first broke out in Tottenham, North London, after a man was shot dead by Police. The riots then quickly spread across London, then into various provincial cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. Along with the rioting, shops were ransacked and destroyed and merchandise looted.

Then only yesterday I came across this article in the Saturday's Daily Mail newspaper. Written brilliantly by A.N. Wilson, this columnist believes that the basic reason for the decline of our society is based on the breakdown of the family unit which, he writes, was sustained throughout history by a bedrock belief in the truth of religion. He praises Muslims, Hindus and Jews for allowing their faith to bind families together, yet let out a blast particularly at the Church of England for wringing her hands while congregation numbers dwindle. He then lets rip on the academics, particularly on what he calls "the nuttier fringes of the chattering classes" for leading the nation away from belief in God and the Bible's truthfulness. Two people he names: Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, both having written books debunking Divine Creation and the early history of the human race for the theory of Evolution. They present a very convincing argument in the name of Science that we are here as an end result of a long process of organic evolution covering a time span of around 200,000,000 years. At the same time, these two are convinced that religion is a poison to the fabric of society.

Thus faith in the Bible has been severely knocked, particularly in the early chapters of Genesis. If the Bible is likened to a vessel, say a pail or large bowl, to have the truth of the early chapters of Genesis called into question would result in a hole at the bottom which would render the vessel useless for holding water. Likewise, the Bible has been rendered ineffectual as a book for spiritual and moral guidance. It has become a book for fanciful stories and myth, at best these myths provide some hidden truth on how one should behave, but remains totally insufficient in historical and spiritual content. Yet the Bible, particularly the book of Genesis, contains the very essence for a stable, crime free society - the institute of marriage and the family unit: father, mother and children brought up in a godly manner. Yet our academics, as A. Wilson rightly comments, are responsible for our nation's moral and spiritual decline.

So in this article, I will try to show the historical truth of the early chapters of Genesis, much maligned by the academics, and how it applies to us today.

It is in the first chapters of Genesis where the institution of a man and woman bonded together in a marriage covenant had its origins. Marriage between a man and a woman began with that of Adam and Eve, and has been ongoing ever since, even to this day, whether the Bible is believed in or not. If the Bible is just a book of mythical fables, then why does history itself testify the importance of marriage? Even to the extent that the Church of England itself had its beginnings over the dispute between King Henry VIII and Pope Clement VII over the King's wish to divorce his first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon.

In this article, I wish to spell out the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis, and to do this I need to write two separate blogs, this one and the one to follow, in it I will deal with the Noachian Deluge.

In 1973, when I was young in the faith, a man only a couple of years younger than me approached and asked:
"If Adam and Eve had sons Cain and Abel, who was Cain's wife?"
At that time I was stumped. He was better informed of the narration than I was, simply because as one new to the faith, I only read the story recently. Furthermore, the same question was asked several times by different people in different places.

In the account, we are told that Adam was created from the ground. He must have been created as an adult with full brain powers, for he was able to give names to every animal which passed him by. Each species were a pair, male and female. When Adam realised that he had no mate of his own, he felt incomplete in himself, and God was able to see this. Thus God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep while an operation was performed - exactly the same kind as performed in hospital theatres today where the patient is put under anaesthesia before an operation is carried out. A rib is removed from Adam's body, itself a living thing, and from it God created a woman who is to become Adam's wife and mother of all living.

Adam and Eve, by Michaelangelo, Sistine Chapel in Rome

The supernatural creation of both Adam and Eve as well as a talking snake which tempted them afterward are all easily debunked as a fanciful myth simply because none of these things had ever occurred in our lifetimes. We never experienced any talking animal, let alone a snake! But that does not mean that it couldn't have happened. Why not? Yet the snake has kept on saying the same words for millennia! As we shall see.

The Edenic Lie is closer to reality than we care to believe. The temptation the snake used were twofold, first that God was a jealous liar in declaring that they would die if they ate fruit from a specific tree. Secondly, the snake offered to exalt their status from the one they were already in (the crown and pinnacle of Creation) to one of divinity, with knowledge of what's good and evil, if they would just eat the fruit. In short, eat - and become gods, full of knowledge.

Our quest for education, knowledge and becoming gods are in all of us. It is like this as an individual, a family, group or nation. Hitler and his Nazi Party provides a good example of national superiority. Just as he wanted to bring his Reich into the rest of Europe, including the UK, he also believed in the lie that the Jews were an inferior race to his, and as a result, ushered in the Holocaust, with the needless slaying of six million Jews. It is interesting to realise that Hitler's slaughter of the Jews was the snake's attempt to prevent the Jews in returning to their own land to form the new State of Israel which, in turn, would eventually bring the return of its Messiah and the end of the snake's power.

Just as Adam and Eve disregarded God's commandment to abstain from eating from that particular tree in the belief that they will be exalted, so too the Edenic Lie, as with Hitler, is in all of us. We are more than happy to disregard God and his commandments for the quest of becoming gods ourselves. The theory of evolution, which denies the Biblical record of Creation, is but one proof of man's strong desire for the gradual climb towards divinity.

Therefore, this disregarding of God's commandments for personal exaltation to divinity makes up the threefold nature of sin, what it really is. First, sin is a rejection of God's Holiness. This includes hate, murder, adultery, blasphemy, lying and many other sins. Secondly, sin is a rejection of God's leadership with the desire to lead our lives our own way, independent from God. Idolatry and pleasure-seeking may be classified as this. Thirdly, a rejection of God's provisions where pride in self achievement may play a role in this, along with stealing, dishonesty and greed.

After our first parents fell into sin by eating the fruit and disobeying God's commandments, God made a promise that the woman's seed shall bruise the snake's head, a way of announcing total defeat for the snake. Also the snake shall bruise the seed's feet, which indicate that the battle will not be easy, but will itself involve death of the seed. Further action is also demonstrated with God slaying an innocent animal to clothe the couple. Therefore innocent blood was shed to cover their nakedness, just as the blood of the innocent Lamb was shed to atone for our sins. This was of contrast to the aprons which they made from fig leaves soon after they fell. Aprons made from fig leaves defines Religion, the attempt to reconcile oneself to God by self-effort. When the beast was supernaturally slain and the couple clothed, God totally disregarded the fig leaves. It is worth of note that Adam and Eve did absolutely nothing in gaining their new clothes. God did everything. No one can be saved and be reconciled to God by self effort, not even the smallest made by man. The seed of the woman is, of course, Jesus Christ.

We now see Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden and Eve becomes the mother of Cain. Then after this, a sibling is born, Abel. We are told that after a period of time (but we are not told how long) both Cain and Abel set up altars. Cain's sacrifice, based on self-effort, was rejected by God. Abel's, based on faith in the Promise, was accepted. In a furious rage, Cain slays his younger brother, whose blood soaks into the ground. Then having received his judgement and punishment from God, we are told that he departed from the Lord, knew his wife and begotten a son, and went eastward to the land of Nod, and there built a city, and called the city after the name of his son, Enoch.

Taking this narration at face value, it's no wonder why skeptics ask, "Who was Cain's wife?" For here we read of only four characters: Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. Abel was killed, leaving only three people on earth. So we see Cain, after the murder, pleading with God: "...that everyone who finds me will slay me...(Genesis 4:14). Everyone? With just his Mum and Dad sharing the whole land? And how on earth could he build a city by himself. It does not make sense! It is the next chapter which gives some answers, and I'm quite surprised to be asked, "Who was Cain's wife?" if only a little research was needed to solve this problem.

Here we read:
And Adam lived 130 years, and begat a son of his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth. Just earlier, the narration tells us that Adam and Eve fathered a son, Seth, to replace Abel, because Cain slew him. (4:25). Therefore we can dismiss the idea that the murder of Abel took place a mere twenty years after Creation. It was more likely to be closer to 130 years after Creation. This was the reason Seth replaced Abel as the father of the Messianic line. Originally, the Messianic line began with Abel, but the snake through Cain tried to have this line cut off before the Messiah arrived to bruise his head. The snake, of course, is the Devil.

So we can conclude here that during the 130 years between Creation and the birth of Seth, many other children were born to Adam and Eve. This would have been the fulfillment of the first command God gave to the innocent, unfallen couple. "Multiply and fill the earth and have dominion over it." (1:28). Not to have children during the next century of their existence would have been totally absurd! We have no idea how many children Adam fathered between Abel and Seth. But let us assume it was thirty. 15 boys and 15 girls. This would give Eve a rest period of over three years between each pregnancy. We assume that along with Cain and Abel, two baby girls were born. This would give Cain a wife straight away. He would have married his own sister, not only acceptable but a necessity in those days. If each of the thirty other children (i.e. 15 couples) had eight offspring each, this would raise the population to 152 people. And that's a very conservative number. If each of the 120 grandchildren of Adam (60 couples) had eight children, the population would have risen to 480 great grandchildren, plus 120 grandchildren, plus 30 children, plus two original parents, would equal 632 people. If each of the descendants of Adam's sons had much more than eight children each, and there is absolutely no reason not to be the case, the population would be much higher. So by the time of Cain's murder of Abel, it might have been possible that the population could have reached into the thousands.

Therefore it all makes sense. At the time of the murder, Cain had reason to be afraid of revenge, even from his own descendants, but more likely from his nephews and great nephews and nieces. As for building a city, this was probably on the banks of the River Euphrates (not the present river of that name, but the antediluvian predecessor). With the help of his relatives, the city might have started as a few houses along the river bank. But over the next thousand years or so, it could have grown into a sizeable city, perhaps like Ninevah, which took three days to explore. The city of Enoch could have been much larger, perhaps the size of Greater London or Los Angeles. After all, it took the last few centuries for London to grow to its present size.

To conclude this article: The narration of the early chapters of Genesis is perfectly historical, and we can see the effects of this to this day. From the dawn of history the institution of marriage between husband and wife and raising children is not only Biblical, but necessary for the survival of civilised society.

Maybe if our academics promote the truthfulness of Scripture instead of spending their lives debunking it as fable folklore, most likely the riots of last week may never had occurred.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Revelation 3:20 - A Sinner's Prayer?

It was a warm August day in 1993, while backpacking Israel, I walked from the Church of the Nativity to a smaller, less well known chapel known as The Grotto of the Milk, at the small town of Bethlehem, at the West Bank district of the Holy Land. According to tradition, this was the site where Joseph, Mary with their baby Jesus were about to flee the town after being warned by an angel in a dream, of Herod's forces out to slay all children under the age of two. Apparently, as they began their journey to Egypt, Mary felt it was time for her child to have his feed. During the feed, a drop of breast milk fell to the ground beneath her, turning the bedrock white. It was a fascinating but purposeless miracle passed as historic by the Roman Catholic Church to which the chapel belongs.

Grotto of the Milk, Bethlehem

I was alone as I entered the chapel, down a flight of stairs to what is really an underground basement. The bedrock was indeed white. Above the altar there was a beautiful statue of Mary breastfeeding her Son. Nearby, fixed on the wall, as if to anticipate skepticism of the miracle, was a plague on which the words were inscribed:

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. (1 Peter 2:2).

There was also a tradition that powder scraped from the wall and added to drinking water enhanced fertility in women, as well as adding special benefits to women already pregnant. Therefore, to many Protestant Christians, where I was standing really amounted to a pagan shrine, bestowing divine, miraculous powers to a Jewish woman who happened to give birth to the Messiah.

Yet as I stood alone and looked around, the soft instrumental version of the well known Italian Catholic song, Ave Maria floated through the air, I felt a wonderful presence Of God. I could imagine myself kneeling at one of the pews facing the Altar and pouring out my heart to God, maybe with some tears shed. The serenity of the place, separate from the hubbub of life above, created such a perfect environment for prayer and Bible meditation.

Presence of God? In a pagan shrine?

Dave Hunt, in one of his books, gives the story of a Protestant Christian missionary successfully converting the Taliabo, inhabitants of a remote island in Indonesia, to faith in Jesus Christ. From then on, Christian worship services where conducted right within the idol temples of their former deity. God was certainly present there, the presence of demonic images certainly did not deter the presence of Jesus Christ himself!

And this is backed by the New testament itself. In the book of Acts, we read of Paul the Apostle, entering into the Acropolis in Athens, and among pagan altars, preached the Gospel of Christ right in their midst. We read that some believed, indicating that the Holy Spirit wasn't put off his ministry by the presence of pagan altars and temples. The same can be said of (now the Turkish) city of Ephesus, where a Temple to Diana was built to commemorate the significant shaped meteorite which fell from the sky, believed to be a sign from Diana herself. (And I find it amazing the degree of parallelism between the Temple of Diana to that of the Grotto of the Milk). Yet not only Paul preached the Gospel there, but some believed and a church was founded, to which we can read Paul's letter addressed to that church.

But what all this to do with the title of this article? The title being:
Revelation 3:20 - A Sinner's Prayer?

First let us read the Scripture, then I hope to present the idea that God, being Sovereign, can and does do what he likes. If God wishes to use a verse of passage of Scripture which may seem "unorthodox" to speak to someone, why shouldn't he, just as in asking why shouldn't the Lord make Himself present in a pagan shrine or temple in order to reveal His mercy and grace.

Revelation 3: 20 reads: Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Christians are divided on the issue whether this verse should be used by the sinner asking the Lord Jesus to "come into his heart" which is of course, the inner man, not the muscle blood pump. The reason for the controversy was that here Jesus was addressing a church of believers who had lost their initial zeal for God due to the rise of materialism and their growing trust in medicine instead of dependence on God. It wasn't addressed to unbelievers.

Yet there were many evangelical leaders who promoted this verse as an act of conversion. The late Bill Bright, who was Head of Campus Crusade for Christ, advocated it in his tract, The Four Spiritual Laws, which was later followed by Knowing God Personally. Also promoting the idea was Jack Chick, with his famous cartoon tract, This Was Your Life and in all his cartoon tracts.

Jack Chick's most famous cartoon tract

According to Chick, asking Jesus Christ into your heart was the most important turning point in one's salvation. Another author who advocated this idea was Salem Kirban, who wrote books on the Rapture, the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ. Authors Hal Lindsey and I believe, Tim LaHaye favoured the idea, along with the late John Stott, in his book, Basic Christianity. In his book, Stott points to a painting by Holmon Hunt, now found at St Pauls Cathedral in London. it features Jesus Christ holding a Lantern and knocking on a closed door, partially obscured by shrubbery, indicating that it had never been opened. According to Stott, Hunt based his work on Revelation 3:20.

Along with these leaders and authors, I read testimonies of changed lives as a result of asking Jesus Christ into their hearts. There were quite a number of these testimonies. One wrote,
"One night, just before bed, I asked God to enter my heart. When I woke the next morning, I felt totally different."

Then there were those against the idea that Revelation 3:20 should be used for conversion. It does not seem to go down well with the Baptists, as both my former minister as well as my present one, insists that this verse is addressed to believers and should not be used in evangelism. One of my friends in the church said the same thing. Authors who did not use the verse for evangelism include Clive Calver, former president of Evangelical Alliance who, in one of his books, Sold Out gives a story about while preaching in one church, denounced the "Asking Jesus into one's heart" form of conversion. One in the congregation stood up and asked, "What about Revelation 3:20?"
Calver than shot back,
"Tell me, what is the last word of Revelation 3:19?"
The person could not answer. In fact, it is the word Repent.
And this is the point of this article. Repent and Repentance are words directly linked to conversion, acknowledged by all Bible scholars, teachers and evangelists. Clive Calver also rebuked Stott's association of Holmon Hunt's painting with Revelation 3:20, and instead says that it was based on John 8:12, where Jesus says that he is the Light of the world.

Holmon Hunt's painting at St Pauls Cathedral, London

So besides Revelation 3:20, are there any other verses in the Bible which talks about Jesus being in the inner man?

In John 14:20 Jesus actually said,
At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me, and I in you...If a man loves me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come into him, and make our abode with him. (verse 23)
Abide in me, and I in you... John 15:4.
He that abide in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. v.5
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith..Ephesians 3:17.

It should be noted that all these verses apply only to believers, as with Revelation 3:20, not to unbelievers. But I believe that God can and does honour the "sinner's prayer" for simply to pray such a request, he would have already believed in the first place. And that despite that the "sinner's Prayer" has only been around within the last hundred years or so, probably less. The truth is that we are saved by believing, which is to say, by trusting. The sinner hears the word of God and quite likely he would be convicted of his sins. For some, if not many, this may be necessary for knowing why he is in need of a Saviour. A person may think that he is good enough to go to Heaven after death and not realise that he has sins in his life which would bring him to judgement.

One speaker at the Calvary Community Church in California, who has a website, Living Waters gave this demonstration of one's shortcomings and the need of a Saviour:

"I was sitting in the aeroplane and I began to talk to this person next to me. Soon I was witnessing to him why he needs a Saviour." I then asked,
"Do you believe that you're a good person?"
"Well, yes. Of course I do." was the other's reply.
"Have you ever lied to someone?"
(After a moment's thinking) "Yes,I have."
"Have you ever avoided paying tax?"
"Oh dear, yes, I did."
"Have you ever hated someone?"
"Er, yes."
"Have you ever lusted after a woman?"
"Er, yes, many times."
"Have you ever swore?"
"Yes, many times."
"So you are a murderer, a thief, a liar, an adulterer and a blasphemer. So much of a 'good' man! You are ripe for judgement."

By now the sinner is convicted of his sins and aware that he will be judged for them. Then comes the good news that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for his sins on his behalf. He immediately believes the good news. Two things have happened here. first he turns from his sins, which we call repenting. Then he believes or trusts in the Saviour. Both are heart matters and actually, repenting and believing is one and the same act. He turns from his sins, to Christ, one single act of faith. Then, according to the belief of the evangelist, he then asks Jesus Christ to come into his heart as Lord and Saviour. But he prays this as a believer, not as an unbeliever turning into a believer. And that conversion took place in a metal capsule 39,000 feet up in the air. It would have been just as effective in a pagan temple. To God, it makes no difference in location. And it makes no difference whether the prayer was said or not, but I think it is a good idea for confirmation of one's faith.

Is that person now saved? Yes, he is saved according to Scriptures. But I am aware that some on this website teaches that Baptism is necessary for salvation. Unfortunately, there is no opportunity for this person being immersed in water while in an aeroplane nearly 40,000 feet up in the air! Now just supposing that the new convert suddenly dies of a heart attack. Would he go to Hell because he wasn't baptised? Surely to ask such a question is enough to answer it. Yet Baptismal Regeneration is taught by some, such as the Church of Christ, and it proves to be very popular here.

For an answer to this, a detailed account of a Gentile's conversion is given in Acts 10. This is an account of Peter entering and then lodging in the home of Cornelius, the Roman Centurion. While Peter was preaching to all those assembled there, suddenly the Holy Spirit descended and filled them all in the house, and they began to praise God in their own languages. Peter was astonished that non-Jews too can be saved and receive the Holy Spirit, putting an end to the apostle's idea that conversion was for Jews only. Then they were all baptised in water, another case when God "broke" the average Christian tradition of first Faith, then Baptism, then Holy Spirit filling. Furthermore, none of them said the "sinner's prayer" as Revelation wasn't written yet at that time. But they were equally saved just the same. Yes, God can do what he likes when dealing with sinners, because he is Sovereign.

If a person feels it is necessary to pray to ask Jesus Christ to enter his heart, God will honour that, providing that he prays as a believer. If he doesn't pray the prayer but like Cornelius, believes anyway, he is still saved.

Likewise, the presence of God can be felt in a church building, in an aeroplane, in a tavern, at a pagan temple or shrine, or in a big open-air Christian meeting, at work, or all alone adrift at sea.

It's because God in his sovereignty and omnipresence is not "boxed in" by human thinking and tradition.