I can think of twelve people considered to be the most fortunate in the whole of human history. I even have their names: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Philip, Thaddaeus, Simon, James, Judas. To any reader, whether he is a Christian or not, these twelve names should immediately strike a sense of familiarity about them. They were the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, who had the unique privilege of spending three years of their lives in the presence of the Son of God, the incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. A privilege the rest of mankind had never experienced.
Even among them, Jesus had his three favourites: Peter, James and John. As James and John were brothers, both sons of Zebedee, so Peter and Andrew were also brothers, sons of Jonas. Yet Andrew was the only one of the four brothers who was not selected to ascend the mountain to witness the Transformation. I wonder how Andrew would have felt as what might be taken as excluded from a specific clique, especially involving his own brother Peter. After all, he was just a fisherman too, along with James and John. Nothing special. However, he didn't have long to ponder, because as the remaining nine were milling around at the foot of the hill, along comes this stranger whose son was demon possessed. Having witnessed a number of successful cases of deliverance by Jesus, these nine attempted to give this one a go, but without any success. Stumped, and most likely downcast at the spirit's stubbornness to shift, how fortunate it was for the Lord himself to appear at the right moment with his three friends.
Rivalry between these men was never too far below the surface. On a couple of occasions a quarrel would arise on who was the greatest. The Lord's answer to their dispute was that anyone who wants to be the greatest must be the servant and humble as a young child. Then according to Matthew 20:20-27, the mother of James and John approached Jesus with a request that her two sons would sit on the most privileged thrones in the Kingdom. These two had already witnessed the Transformation, therefore it was no big surprise that the other ten were indignant, including Peter, the only other who was also up on that mountain. Again Jesus rebuked them with the same answer of servitude. I guess that the quest for personal status was not that much different to what it is today. Yet Peter, James and John were fishermen, not unlike any commercial fishermen with us at present. Among the remaining nine who were left behind included a Zealot, a taxman, and also the group's treasurer.
Which surprises me in a way, why Matthew was not the treasurer. After all, as the tax collector, he had quite an experience with handling money. Instead, the role went to Judas Iscariot, whose background I know virtually nothing about, except that he found delight in dipping into the funds for his own pleasure. However, according to some sources, Iscariot might have been a scholar himself, perhaps some form of philosopher. In Franco Zeffirelli's film Jesus of Nazareth, Judas Iscariot presents himself as a scholar to Jesus, not like those scummy fishermen whom the Lord seem to favour. Instead, he encourages Jesus to behold, the scholar. The Lord takes him in, a contrast to being initially called as was the case with the others. And whatever his scholarship might have been, he was entrusted with the funds, rather than Matthew.
|"Behold, the scholar!" Judas in Jesus of Nazareth.|
And what a tragic end for the scholar! As a result of the guilt he felt after betraying Jesus to the Sanhedrin, he hanged himself and departed from this planet into a lost eternity, the only one of the Twelve who was shut out from Heaven. I suppose money had everything to do with his downfall. At first he most likely persuaded Jesus to allow himself to take care of the money bag instead of Matthew having to do it, using his scholarship as a vantage point. Then he helped himself whenever no one was looking. Then he bartered with the Sanhedrin and with the Pharisees to hand Jesus to them for thirty pieces of silver. That is a large amount of money, considered to be a nest-egg he can retire upon and live the rest of his life in luxury.
I suppose that in all cultures, both past and present, there has always been something grand about a scholar. Someone to look up to, an icon for respect, maybe even a god to worship. In ancient Greece, there was a whole pantheon of bickering divinities, whether they stole each other's wives or performed some other unseemly acts, nevertheless a temple was always found in a city which was dedicated to each one of them. Could these divinities stem from some very human heroes or from men of outstanding learning? That said, great scholars such as Solon, Pythagoras, Eratosthenes, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many more, none had ever made it into the realm of the pantheon, although their names remain familiar to this day. Therefore I tend to believe that all those within the realm of the ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman pantheons were antediluvian "heroic men of renown" - offspring between fallen angels and pre-Flood human women, according to Genesis 6:1-4, with tremendous mental and intellectual powers and physical prowess.
I am so glad that such sexual intimacy between fallen angels and the daughters of men had ended with the Deluge. I dread what our world would be like if these guys were around at present! Worse than that, chances that if the Flood wasn't sent during Noah's day, such continuous interbreeding would have eventually choked the Messianic Line. With such Nephilim existing within the line of Shem, Abraham and David, the incarnation of the Son of God would never have occurred, due to the impairment of the genome. Instead, according to 2 Peter 2:4, all the angels who had sinned, with the exception of Lucifer, are now confined to Tartarus, a subterranean prison of gloom and darkness, awaiting Judgement, whilst every demon most likely is a Nephilim disembodied by the Flood, and according to Ephesians 6:12, even right up to the present, roaming the air in want of a body, and is fully aware of its own defeat by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The angelic confinement to Tartarus, I believe, is to prevent the interbreeding between those supernatural beings and human women from reoccurring, therefore preserving the Messianic Line and fulfilling the Promise of Genesis 3:15. One way of putting it, the Flood of Noah was also an act of mercy towards the redemption of mankind as well as a punishment for the wicked and the nonredeemable.
And so as the ancestors deified these Nephilim to divinity and built pagan temples in dedication to them, so it looks to be normal human nature to exalt the great among us to this day. And that includes church life where roving guest speakers are assigned greater honour than the regular preacher or church pastor. The snag with that is heresy can be passed onto his listeners in a very subtle way which seems so orthodox, so Biblical. The worst case scenario is when someone comes along, who claim to be Oxford- or Cambridge-educated, and then publicly preach his denial of Eternal Security of the believer, such content denying the Omniscience of God and weakening the effect of the Atonement. And as I have so recently written already, this has happened. Rather than edify, the sermon caused a near-riot at a theatre where the preaching took place, and counselling sessions were needed afterwards. But after all that, whenever I advocated Eternal Security, someone would look me straight in my eyes and tell me off for daring to cross such a well-educated individual!
With the highly educated held in such reverential respect, I could not help let out a loud groan whilst still in bed. For the morning bulletin on the radio announced the death of one of the nation's top scientists, Professor Stephen Hawking. My heart was sad, very sad for him. This was because Dr. Hawking declared himself to be an atheist. Indeed, my skin always crawl whenever I hear of the death of a known atheist.
Am I being arrogant? After all, who am I to determine the eternal state of someone who has just died? No, in myself I have no right whatsoever to say whether this particular person is now in Hell or not. The case of Ananias and Sapphira is good case point here. Luke does not state their eternal destiny following their deaths as a result of deceitfulness and lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11). This particular couple was seeking glory and honour within the church without deserving it. So they sold a field and gave some of their money to the apostles, but lied when they said that their money was all they had. They kept part of it for themselves and paid the ultimate price. But we are not told where they are spending eternity. And so theologians can be locked in a debate over this issue, without the Bible's blessing.
By contrast, Stephen Hawking had no intention of being deliberately deceitful. He was a man fascinated with science. He admitted his admiration for the Universe, and especially with Black Holes - how were they created, how powerful their energy, and what would be the consequence if our planet was sucked into one, and how long do they last before finally expiring. This with his study of the Universe and how it all began - without acknowledging the Creator. He genuinely believed, without malicious intent, that the complexity of the Universe, our Earth with all its life, and Evolution and the vast time spans needed for such to happen, all ruled out the need of a Creator, who is now confined to ignorance on scientific origins of our Universe. Indeed, according to Hawking, science has replaced for the need to believe in God.
Dr. Hawking was well known for his motor neurone disease which weakened his muscles to the point of paralysis, confining him to a wheelchair. With marvellous technology, he was able to make his thoughts known by a monotone voice emitting from a computer fixed in front of him. Of all the disabled he was one of the more fortunate ones. Up to the age of twenty he was able-bodied, and his brilliant mind and advanced academic progress has already earned him a place at Cambridge. Had he been born already disabled, chances that he would never had become a modern-day Albert Einstein. Instead, his middle-class upbringing gave him such advantage before his health folded in on itself. Indeed, there is that tendency within society to look upon a physically disabled person born that way as if he is also simple-minded as well, and incapable of high-level learning. Dr. Hawking was fortunate indeed.
|The late Stephen Hawking.|
But what I know of him, little as it might be, I wasn't able to see any misdeed or anything unseemly about him. He was for the well-being of humanity, even if that means remaining in the EU. A complete opposite to the far-right who promotes violence, even murder, towards the ethnically diverse and those who tends to be more internationally minded. Rather like the Britain First leaders and their members who were willing to beat Muslims to bloody pulp in the name of Christianity and patriotism. Dr. Hawking had none of any of that in him.
Hawking loved science, he wanted to do good to the rest of mankind, he wanted to educate, but he was also an atheist. But I still refuse to say where he is now. It is not up to me to judge, for that belongs to God alone. Yet I mourn for him. If only -if only - he knew Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Would knowing Christ impair his knowledge? Rather, his knowledge would have been enriched. He would have still studied the Universe and glory in its complexity, then give thanks to God for his magnificent creation, opening the door for praise and worship whilst wondering in awe and admiration.
Such a brilliant mind. Such a sky-high intelligence quotient. But he never knew God his Creator.
And that is what I find so amazing.