Easter weekend has arrived at last, supposedly bringing a temporary end to the chilly Winter days until they return once again on the approach to Christmas. Unfortunately, as it's always the case here in England, the weekend of warm sunshine was during the previous week, when at last everyone ventured out into the streets, shopping malls, parks, and other attractions free from the heavy overcoats, jackets, scarves, and carrying an umbrella on the ready, all which epitomise public life in general here in the UK. But as I ventured out earlier this morning for my weekly dose of Starbucks cappuccino and a copy of the Daily Mail newspaper, once again the sight of overcoats, jackets, scarves, and the potential of catching sight of an umbrella were back on the agenda. For according to the Met Office, the Easter weekend will actually be chillier than Christmas Day 2016 by about a couple of degrees. Thanks to a persistent polar wind blowing in from Iceland.
But that did not stop the lengthy traffic congestions building up on our motorways and major trunk roads, as British families with characteristic stiff upper lips head for the coast for the long weekend, with full knowledge of the dreary holiday weather. Within many family cars, fathers silently curse the driver of the car in front under his breath whilst mothers attempt to calm their boisterous children with a promise of more Easter egg treats after arrival at their sea-side Bed & Breakfast hotel. Other vehicles stuck in prolonged stationary traffic hide their bored kids at the back seat from the outside world, whilst both parents try to engage them into a game of I Spy, using the first word beginning with "C" - with the five-year-old immediately guessing correctly by submitting his word, Car.
Well-to-do Dads who were not so slavishly addicted to the steering wheel were taking their families to the coast by express train, where without doubt the family would be more relaxed. Promises of more chocolate treats or the need to play I Spy may not have been such a necessity, as the kids, sitting by the window, were enthralled at the scenery as it whizzed past at a speed no car could ever attain, not even illegally. Then there were those who cannot hack the British holiday climate, making their way to the airport. But even here the traffic on the roads leading to the terminals were so congested with like-minded sun-seekers, that some frustrated drivers had literally abandoned their cars for a quicker way to the check-in desk. If there was one crisis that would melt the stiff upper lip to butter and cause the lower lip to tremble in rage and frustration - it's the risk of missing the flight.
And so Easter comes and Easter goes, and the pulse of life beats on. After three months of driving to work and ferrying the kids to school in the cold, wind and rain, Easter is perceived as the gateway for the coming Summer months. Perhaps the egg is the perfect symbol of this. It stands for the beginning of new life when the weather at last warms up, the chick hatch, the trees bud, the daffodils blossom, the sheep in their lambing season - and at last, heavy Winter clothing are once again stored away in the wardrobe and chest of drawers. A time for optimism. But did I leave something out?
According to a You-Gov poll, nearly half of the UK population do not prioritise the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the real reason for the long weekend. Rather, it lies in fourth place after the confection, the long weekend being a statutory holiday and therefore the need to get away. Yet, Easter is meant to be the most important festival in the Christian calender, even more so than Christmas, even if the former lacks the commercial glitter and party joviality which goes with the latter. And for many years I accepted without question that our Lord was crucified, died and was sealed in a rock tomb on a Friday, remained dead all day Saturday, and came back to life before dawn on the Sunday, even though I had found it hard that the total of 38-39 hours of non-life can equal three days - if 3 x 24 hour days adds up to 72 hours. Somehow, even from childhood, the figures did not seem to add up, which caused serious consequences in my perception of God and of the Christian faith.
This was important to me, even back then. Because even after conversion near to Christmas 1972, I perceived God as loving his Son so much more than he loves me, that he wasn't patient enough to keep his body lying lifeless in the tomb for the full duration of 72 hours, so he cut the time short, so to speak, leaving me with a subconscious conclusion of my unworthiness, and that I had to "complete" the atonement by means of personal merit - something which is actually endorsed by the Catholic Church in which I grew up. To conclude that God loves Jesus much more than he loves me has left me in the state to question whether He loves me at all. Was God's character really like my father's and of the school teachers, who only perceived any act of kindness from me as a means of wanting something? In short, the Friday Crucifixion has made me doubt God's love.
Then when I began to read the Bible after conversion, sooner or later I came across that one verse in the Gospels, and it was Matthew 12:40, which reads:
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
This verse stands alone in the entire New Testament, there is no repeated statement found in the other three Gospels, nor in any of the letters. Therefore this left me to check out the prophet Jonah and see for myself exactly what actually took place when he fled on board a ship from God's presence. In Jonah 1:17, the narrator states that the prophet was in the belly of a large marine creature "for three days and three nights" - apparently with no qualification for a shorter or longer duration. That is a bare minimum of sixty hours if only a few minutes of either a third day or night is considered. The maximum duration would be 72 hours - if nothing of a fourth day or night is included. And that is why I have considered the late Dave Hunt and the Berean Society he founded, a group committed to "Searching the Scriptures daily to see whether it was so" - as stated in Acts 17:11. In his book, How Close Are We? he advocates a Thursday crucifixion. This means that if Jesus died around 3.00 pm on a Thursday afternoon, was buried, and by dawn on the Sunday he was already risen, then the duration of his death would have been in the region of 63 hours, which is within the acceptable time frame of 60-72 hours, when considering that he was dead during the last three hours of the first day, by the normal reckoning of Hebrew numeracy.*
What does this all mean to me? By accepting a Thursday crucifixion rather than the traditional Friday execution changes everything, especially my perception of God's character and his steadfast love. And that despite that I stand alone in my church and in the wider Christian community. Although I am familiar with three other churches in my own town, plus up to ten other churches within a radius of thirty miles from home, I have not heard a single preach advocating a Thursday crucifixion. However, I did have two Christians at different times and at different places having spoken to me in likely agreement.
All the Elders at my regular church in Ascot believe in a Friday crucifixion. I was there with them yesterday, a Good Friday, worshipping God among a people I love dearly. I don't dispute this matter with the Elders. Instead I submit to them, as the Bible itself recommend. If at the Judgement Seat of Christ, I am asked by God himself why I dared to simplify what he had set up to be a very complex issue, then I will answer this to God alone, and I will not deny my responsibility.
A Thursday Crucifixion changes everything. With this I can be assured that God does what he says he will do. There are no short cuts with him, no renegade on his word. Instead, God's love for the likes of one as myself can be reassured by the keeping of his promises. The beautiful offshoot of such divine character is my assurance of salvation, Eternal Security, Once Saved Always Saved. If the concept of the Friday crucifixion causes me to question the love of God and his assurance of fulfilled promises, then how can I possibly believe in Once Saved Always Saved? Really, I'm beginning to wonder whether there is a connection between the Arminian idea that salvation can be lost with the lack of assurance of God's promises properly fulfilled. But on this issue of a Thursday Crucifixion, I will stand firm, even if all alone.
Just as I will stand alone, if necessary, in believing that both our planet and the entire Universe are no more than six thousand years old, and which came into existence by God's spoken word. Yes, I'm willing to stand alone in this, as I am ready to stand alone with Holy Scripture endorsing the historicity of Adam and Eve, and the Scriptural fact that the Atonement made by Jesus Christ on the Cross was because of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, endorsed as historic by both Jesus himself (Matthew 19:1-12) and by Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12-21). In short, if Adam and Eve had never existed, then the whole of the Christian faith is fit only for the trash-bin. All the words in the Bible will not be worth the paper they are printed on.
And the same applies to Biblical semantics. I'm willing to stand alone in my conviction that the English word Repent means A change of mind, so verbally demonstrated in Peter's sermon narrated throughout the whole second chapter of Acts. I am ready to stand alone with the historical fact that in the Fourth Century AD, St Jerome mistranslated the Greek word for Repent to a Latin word for Penitence, thus changing God's plan of salvation from simply changing your mind about Jesus being the risen Christ, to the need to forsake sin, which involves works performed to exonerate the believer from his sins, and then to remain faithful afterwards in order to be saved. I will stand with this opinion that the Roman Catholic Church, along with quite a number of Protestant and Reformed churches, were never freed from St. Jerome's mistranslation, even if this great scholar did not make such a error with malicious intent.
And with these things I stand, even if no one takes any notice. And yes, I'm very much used to all that. Thanks to that great psychologist Cyril Burt who, in the early 1940's, composed a theory that innate intelligence could be measured at eleven years of age. This led to the 1944 Education Act, bringing in the eleven-plus exam for all primary school children, thus pigeon-holing every pupil according to how he performed in the test. Bright kids who passed were selected for Grammar School education, followed by University graduation. Those who failed ended up at the Secondary Modern school, back then known as the academic trash-bin, and geared for vocational and manual labour occupations. Ironic, coming to think of it. What I have found to be rather surprising was whilst the Alliance, including the British forces, were up against Hitler's Nazi powers, much time and attention were given over to such matters such as child intelligence and schooling. Of course, not only did I fail the eleven-plus, but came rock bottom, and condemned to sit at the slowest learning class in the whole school between the years 1964 to 1968. This resulted in four years of my life wasted. How come? Because all I received in secondary education was a re-hash of everything I had learnt at primary.
The snag was that if a student fails the exam by just one mark, he would be classed as a failure. Meanwhile, another student just scrapes through, and he would be categorised as a genius, and both go on to their respective schools. Unless out of a stroke of good fortune, it does not allow for the chance of later mental development. However, I'm very happy to say that conversion to Jesus Christ as Saviour and exploring the Bible and reading it freely has vastly improved my intelligence and academic quality! And I'm not exaggerating. The Christian faith has done more than merely save my soul from eternal loss. It has made me a new man, a better person, here and now.
But this is England, blessed England. A land with its culture where the fate of an individual is determined before his twelfth birthday. Failed the exam? Then I must know my place. And sad to say, most, if not all, of our churches go along with this British culture. For example, fresh young leaders and preachers will always hold a degree. In the whole of the 45 years as a Christian believer, I hardly recall any exceptions. Rather, I do recall the Junior Church department at my home town fellowship, which was staffed by graduates, all of them believing in Evolution. They were most prominent throughout the late 1970's and well into the Eighties. In addition, the Church of England has always relied on the gene pool at Oxford and Cambridge for future leadership. As for Cyril Burt, it takes the opinion of just one doctor to decide the fate of countless numbers of students over the decades, without leaving room for later development of academic ability and intelligence.
This means that although I'm accepted and loved by my regular church, and even held at a high esteem by at least two of the Elders as well as by some of the students who attend, I doubt that I would ever be given a chance to teach, even though I might have a gifting for it. Some years ago, back in the early/mid nineties, a family suggested that, with my then knowledge of the Bible, I should teach a class, with themselves being willing students. But when I presented the idea to one of the Elders (no longer with us) - he said that this responsibility belongs to someone out of university and therefore better trained. Little wonder that, for a very different reason, he was defrocked by the congregation, and soon afterwards moved across the Atlantic to Florida.
It was to the likes of Cyril Burt that our schooling culture is at it is to this day, with the likes of me remaining unqualified for such responsibilities within the local church, whilst forever watching young graduates take their place at the pulpit or teaching a group. But nevertheless, I make my stand, even if it means standing alone.