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Topic: COMMENTARIES by S. Michael Craven

Is Religion Bad?

February 12, 2007
S. Michael Craven
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This seems to be becoming a popular argument: “Religion is the source of all strife and conflict in the world and we would all be better off without it.” Prominent advocates of this view include the eminent Richard Dawkins, the professor of evolutionary biology and author of The God Delusion. Dawkins argues in this most recent book that “as long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, then it is hard to withhold respect from the faith of Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers.” Dawkins further states that religion is a “bad idea” that when foisted on children; it is a “moral wrong.”

Then there is Sam Harris, the neuroscientist and author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. Harris argues that, “unless we renounce faith, religious violence will soon bring civilization to an end.”

In an article written by former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich which appeared in the New Prospect; Reich states that:

The great conflict of the 21st century may be between the West and terrorism but terrorism is a tactic and not a belief. The underlying battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernist fanatics; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that beings owe blind allegiance to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is no more than preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe that truth is revealed solely through scripture and religious dogma, and those who rely primarily on science, reason, and logic.

In essence, the sentiment common to each of these men and a growing number of others is that religion, in their minds, answers the question, “What has gone wrong with the world?” Unfortunately, all they have to offer is the scientific or modernistic worldview as the solution which postmodernism is now revealing as both futile and crumbling.

Regardless, much of this sentiment has been given a credible voice in the wake of Islamic violence and terror. In this sense, I do understand the reaction. In the case of Islam, one must ask what is it that this religion teaches which encourages such brutality and bloodshed. However, it is both incorrect and rather sophomoric to conclude that ALL religion is therefore “bad.”

Investigation into the teachings of Islam will no doubt convince one that this particular religious idea is indeed dangerous. Critics attempt to argue that Christianity is equally guilty of preaching violence and bloodshed “in the name of God” but this again is not an accurate account of the theology and teachings of the Christian faith. Furthermore, this is almost always based upon religious ignorance by those who are predisposed in their opposition to religion in general. Additionally, this narrow idea that “religion is bad” does not take into account the overwhelming good that we see produced by religion every day.

No, in answer to question, “What has gone wrong with the world?” the better answer is this: pride. Pride is the universal human evil across the globe – not religion. Pride, according to C.S. Lewis “leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” There is no doubt that many atrocities have been and continue to be committed in the name of religion and this would include those who have, at certain junctures, perverted the Christian religion. However, whether this evil is true to a given religion or a perversion of pure religion it is always the product of human pride.

This is the uniquely Christian analysis of the human condition and the biblical counter is humility – humility before God first and then others. It is this wretched condition of pride that separates us from God and from each other. It is this universal disease that has convinced each of us that we are important in and of ourselves and we often validate this “self-importance” by comparison to others. In doing this we inevitably exalt ourselves and demean others. This is what creates division, envy, strife, and even violence.

It is pride that causes people to think they are better and perhaps more deserving than others and so they justify their greed, avarice and scheming. It was pride that produced the Enron scandal as well as every other that rocked American business in the last decade. It was this same pride which has led so many elected officials into graft and corruption.

It was pride that led Adolf Hitler to believe in the power of the human will and it was pride that facilitated the deception of the German people in the name of nationalism and Aryan superiority. It was pride that gave birth to the communist revolution and its violent reign by elevating the idea that human reason alone was sufficient for the governance of men. This same pride was at the root of the bloody “reign of terror” known as the French Revolution which tried (unsuccessfully) to found its government on the “Rights of Men” supposedly given by men rather than God.

Throughout the ages it has been pride, not religion that has caused all human conflict and related suffering. No good has ever come from this kind of pride and arrogance. Religion, as we talk about it, is a concept until it is institutionalized by sinful, pride-filled men. Christian teaching warns us that sin proceeds from within rather than from without. It is pride which proceeds from every human heart that has alienated us from God and from each other. Here again Lewis is helpful in understanding pride and the Christian call to humility:

We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity – as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His dignity. …He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble – delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity that has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and strutting about like the little idiots we are.

This is pure religion: the Christian faith which calls men to humble repentance and reconciliation with God through Christ Jesus. It is not the source of all evil in the world as some propose – it is the only cure for the universal human disease: Pride.

© 2007 S. Michael Craven


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Responses
Response from : John Armstrong  

February 12, 2007 9:55 AM
 

Michael, you've said it well. The real problem is "true religion," of which there is just not enough in the Christian Church. The arguments of Dawkins and Harris are as old as the 17th and 18th centuries but simply packaged in modern form. The answers are still the same. Thanks for a thoughtful, as always, reflection.

http://www.act3online.com

 
Response from : Pam Gessler  

February 12, 2007 9:58 AM
 

My atheistic neighbor had this same accusation: "Religion causes all wars".
He actually said that there has never been a group of atheists who've ever started a war.
I asked him what religion Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot,
etc. followed?
Further, what gives any of us a sense of justice in which we KNOW that an injustice is being done--no matter what the religion? If we know what justice is, then we also know we are answerable to someone higher than ourselves.
Christianity is the religion of compassion and lovingkindness. When someone who claims to follow Jesus Christ abuses his place, doing non-Christian things, we all know it's wrong. We KNOW he's not following Jesus. Jesus never said to abuse non-believers.
The fruits of someone's actions tell what religion he follows.


 
Response from : Gary Halbedel  

February 12, 2007 10:03 AM
 

Have Dawkins and his ilk ever addressed the examples you cited of the "successful" elimination of religion?
1. The Third Reich
2. The Soviet Union and other "worker's paradises"
3. The French Revolution


 
Response from : john evans  

February 12, 2007 10:04 AM
 

Michael, Anyone that thinks that religion is the root of all evil is not thinking very clearly. Dawkins certainly does not think such a thing. People obviously do evil things all the time that have no relation to religion. Religion, or more specifically, belief in the supernatural is clearly dangerous as historical and current events show us. Belief in the supernatural (whether that belief is in ghosts that haunt houses, demons that possess children, statues of saints that bleed or cry, gods that change the natural laws for the benefit of the prayerful, and so on) leads away from the natural, away from what we call reality. That can not be a good thing for society.


 
Response from : S. Michael Craven  

February 12, 2007 10:36 AM
 

Dear John,

Your sentiments do not ring true as indicated in this statement: “Religion, or more specifically, belief in the supernatural is clearly dangerous as historical and current events show us.” You clearly believe that “religion is bad” and thus you must, in order to be true to your conscience, oppose the tolerance of religion as Dawkins most assuredly does. Furthermore, yours [and Dawkins’] is an overly simplistic assessment of the human condition as experienced throughout history. There is an excellent book written by an atheist and professor emeritus of political science at UMass - Amherst, Dr. Guenter Lewy, entitled Why America Needs Religion. I think it offers much more historical and philosophical balance than polemists such as Dawkins and Harris. I think you would actually appreciate the book. Again, if you are looking for a universal cause of strife and conflict; I invite you to examine the subject of my essay: human pride.


 
Response from : john  

February 12, 2007 2:57 PM
 

Michael, I would agree with you that pride is closer to the root of evil than religion is. I personally would say the desire for power over others is even closer to the root of all evil.

There of course were thousands of gods that predated Christianity. Belief in these supernatural beings were most likely born primarily out of fear. Fear of death, fear of enemies, fear of the unknown—of the workings of the world. Religion was a codifying of that response to fear. So religion is, at its heart, a primitive response to fear. Fear leads to all kinds of societal dysfunctions and breeds more fear. That is why I would like to see it disappear.

You said that I must, in order to be true to my conscience, “oppose the tolerance of religion.” That is not the case. As much as I despise violence, if I saw no other option, I would fight and die for your right to believe what ever you want to believe. But I also think belief in the supernatural is unhealthy and dangerous and will dedicate the rest of my life to studying religion and trying to educate people about it.

I guess it’s a little like smoking. The government slaps warning labels on the side of the box and tries to educate people about the dangers and yet they tolerate it.

The church does many remarkable things. The response to Katrina was truly amazing. The world would lose a great many positive things if all the churches disappeard tomorrow. I think the net result would be overwhelmingly positive but I could be wrong. My vision for the future would be to retain the church but to gradually transition to a humanist/natural philosophy from the supernatural teachings. I will definitely read your suggested book. Thanks.


 
Response from : Marty Renfroe  

February 13, 2007 8:39 AM
 

My Brother,
You have been given a gift and it blesses me so. It is difficult for me to read your articles and not feel the very presence of almighty God. May HE continue to bless you and your ministry
Marty


 
Response from : Jennifer  

February 13, 2007 1:36 PM
 

Which C.S. Lewis source are you quoting in this article "Is Religion Bad"? I'd love to read more.


 
Response from : Michael Craven  

February 13, 2007 3:28 PM
 

Dear Jennifer,

The quote from C.S. Lewis is taken from his classic, "Mere Christianity." Specifically, chapter 8 entitled "The Great Sin."


 
Response from : Bryan L. Fellers  

February 14, 2007 9:43 AM
 

Michael,

I agree with your assessment that the problem is man's pride and not his religion. Jesus was not concerned about institutional structures of traditions and laws that applied to God. Jesus was interested in relationships with people. If we as the body of Christ would humble ourselves and be more concerned with building loving relationships with people that reflect the hope, faith and love of Christ; then "pure religion" would be more palatable. Christians have the need to always be right. God does not need for us to defend him, he commands us to love him and love our neighbor. When the Church stops arguing about who is right and who is wrong and starts living a "Christ like" influence in the community, then people will experience "pure religion." I propose that people see pride, power and ego as the main ingredients of religion, and they get enough of that in the secular work place, why would they want that in their religion. Follower os Christ need to keep living humble lives that project faith, hope and love in Christ.


 
Response from : Gerry  

February 14, 2007 10:31 AM
 

The concept that there is "overwhelming good that we see produced by religion every day" is a huge example of begging the question. To me it's self-evident that the good we see around us, products of love and altruism, are in the world in spite of religion, not because of it. There are good and bad people among both believers and non-believers. Moral imperatives are more deeply imprinted on the human psyche than religious impulse. Want evidence?
Unicef published a report today stating that the three best countries in the world to raise a child are Sweden, Norway and Finland (not necessarily in that order). Isn't it interesting that those three also happen to be among the world's most secular societies?


 
Response from : Alex  

February 16, 2007 12:40 AM
 

Who exactly is arguing, "Religion is the source of all strife and conflict in the world and we would all be better off without it.”? Who exactly are you paraphrasing or quoting? I've read both Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins' books, and I found that neither make such an argument. Rather, they make other very reasoned arguments that are not very easily dismissed. It behooves you as a Christian and as a good person in general to address their real arguments directly and honestly rather than manufacturing weak arguments and attributing it to them.


 
Response from : Michael Craven  

February 16, 2007 8:02 AM
 

Dear Alex,

Thank you taking the time to share your thoughts. Respectfully I must disagree with your interpretation of Dawkins’ and Harris’ work. Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and the like very much agree with the sentiment expressed in my article and have stated as much in various interviews and articles as well as their own works. In addition, this same sentiment increasingly permeates popular media portrayals in its treatment of religion. You would have a hard time proving that the aforementioned are even neutral toward religion much less charitable. Lastly, their arguments aren’t new – merely modern reiterations of 17th and 18th century skeptics. You cannot deny the growing hostility toward religion that has manifested to greater and lesser degrees throughout the West in the last five years. To point this out is not a “weak argument” but a matter of fact. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to the discourse.


 
Response from : C.W.  

February 16, 2007 2:21 PM
 

Michael
I just finished reading your artical on Bad Religion. I thought it was right on the money. I'm Native American, and it seems that if I as a born again christain bring up the history this country and how it was stolen from the Native people by lies and deception, and "Pride"people act like I should just kepp my mouth shut and quit crying about it. I like what I read because it explains why it happened. I never have read a book that says that Europeans by "Pride" took away this land from the Native people. What do you think about this? Our Native people are so hard against the Good News of Jesus Christ, because of what was done to them in the name of God. If America would just admit it maybe the Native people would respond to the Gospel. Our culture doesn't think much of a people would won't confess their wrong. Please reply to my comment, Thank you. Be Blessed
C.W. Springwater


 
Response from : LJ  

April 26, 2007 5:12 AM
 

Foisting the blame for violence and war onto 'Religion' (which is not an entity in itself anyway) is simply mankind's way of ridding himself of any blame.

Man causes war, man causes violence. We live in a society where adults are refusing to grow up and take responsibility for their own actions. It is notable that most religions teach people to do the opposite, i.e. to take responsibility for their own actions.

How often do we hear people say that marriage ruins what were perfectly good relationships before marriage? Such people need to take responsibility for themselves. If they decide that once they are married they are totally secure and can stop working on their relationship then of course it will fail! Marriage is not a 'thing', it can not be blamed for breaking up couples, only people can.

Anyway, the only reason divorce rates seem so high is because they can be factually reported. All studies on the subject of 'unwed but living together relationships' show that these relationships break down far more often than marriages do, even where there are children.


 
Response from : rafael  

December 5, 2007 11:06 PM
 

AUTHENTIC RECORD AND GEOLOGY SCIENTIS CAN’T CALCULATE THE AGE OF THE EARTH.
The subject of evolution among those who understand it, they must be aware that there is the danger of excessive subjectivity concerning one owns knowledge. This is not healthy, is a means of cultivating the mind with vain thoughts, and be fill with self examination. Is better, to be objective. The subject of evolution is easy to refute but difficult for man to apprehend. Evolution was a psychological, economical, sociological, political, philosophical, atheist; theory that has gotten into the cosmos (grk. world system) is thought everywhere. This theory is having its end in a microscopic world. Darwin called evolution of species, cells and his follower’s genes or DNA.
Wiseman said: 'even one who, like myself, has been for many years a convinced adherent of the theory of selection, can only reply: We assume so, but cannot prove it in any case. It is not upon demonstrative evidence that we champion the doctrine of selection as scientific truth; we base our arguments on quite other grounds’ (1870).
Jacques Barzun In our century, said: Darwinism has triumphed as an orthodoxy, as a rallying point of innumerable scientific, philosophical, and social movements Mr. Darwin became the oracle, as Barzun suggests, and the Origin of Species the fixed point with which Evolution moved the world`(1930).
Darwinism was accepted by eugenics which was Hitler idealism or dream, never accomplished in Germany but applied in North America, where is up to now working, nevertheless the biggest lied on humanity is ending microscopic world. Evolutionist as well those who support the design theory have fall into this category cells, DNA manipulation, little machines, it can get as little as the micro lenses can get. The fact is DNA manipulation does not exist. In plants where is the effects of manipulating a fruit plant by means of DNA? Why a blueberry is always small, big orange size would be nice. What about the clones like dolly, the fact is that never a clone has taken place.
And that we have X and Y genes which are combined in males as well in females , allow me to say one thing X and Y in genetics are symbolism they mean something so it must be interpreted, is like and abstract picture which is observe by a paint collector and find the meaning in the symbolisms that he sees , others see something else and others nothing point in fact everyone sees what they understand , this is the principle in symbolisms.
When this principle is applied of X and Y in referring to male and females and states u have 50% of woman to a male, and to say a woman 5o% or a combination XXXX and YYYY the assumption of that teaching will cause a big impact in the life of the person, if thought in the school, it will have a ambiguous effects X and Y in math’s science are empirical measurements never in human genes. Male are 100% male and female 100% female. In the last years Darwinism who lowers mankind to the status of animals has told the world psychologically that symbolism can be as math or measurements there is not a reasonable explanation, therefore not scientific knowledge.
And who can say what is the IQ level of a person, can be measure what are the roots and the methods apply a group of teacher did it in the
History of the I.Q. Test

Although the literature emphasizes that Charles Darwin was Galton's older half cousin, and Galton's penance toward the involvement of heredity in intelligence was prompted by the publication of Darwin's Origin of the Species (Clark, 1979; Davis & Rimm, 1989; Howley, Howley, & Pendarvis, 1986), Galton's predisposition toward a heredity controlled intellect was set much earlier.
From infancy, Francis Galton was programmed for and expected to be successful. He was the youngest of seven children in a wealthy, prominent English family.
When Galton eventually entered the larger realm of education beyond his home at age eight, he discovered that there were others who could perform academically better than he. During the next ten years he watched his scholastic aspirations for greatness evaporate. Although he did well, he failed to earn the highest honors. This phenomenon was inconceivable to him, since he had grown up with all the social advantages. He began searching for an alternative rationale for his limited greatness. The conclusion he eventually drew was that there must be some innate difference between those whose achievement went beyond his and him. The ground work was set for his later work in intelligence theory and testing..

Because Galton did not believe education was a key factor in intelligence, the only hope he saw for “improving society” was to develop a genetically superior breed of humans. He went so far as to propose that the state arrange and support a eugenics program which would develop a superior breed (Fancher, 1985). Since individuals usually do not attain eminence until middle age, he needed to find a way to assess an individual's intelligence earlier, while he or she was still at childbearing age. This led to his attempt to measure intelligent

In an 1883 article entitled "Le ?Raisonnement dans les Perceptions," (Reasoning in Perception) published in Revue Philosophique Binet wrote:
The operations of the intelligence are nothing but diverse forms of the laws of association: “all psychological phenomena” revert to these forms, be they apparently simple, or recognized as complex. Explanation in psychology, in the most scientific form, consists in showing that each mental fact is only a particular case of these general laws. (Fancher, 1985, p. 52)
Binet began working with Charles Fere' under the direction of Jean Martin Charcot on the relationship between hysteria and hypnosis. Charcot believed the in-depth study of a few subjects was preferable to working with a large sample of subjects.
The case study approach left an impression on Binet. The experiments in hysteria and hypnosis that Binet and Fare' conducted with a subject named Blanche Whitman were tainted with poor design and were eventually discredited because the two had failed to recognize the subject's sensitivity to unintentional suggestion. Despite public humiliation, Binet had learned case-study method well from Charcot while at the Salpetriere Hospital. He also managed to produce three books and 20 articles on topics as esoteric as sexual fetishism, illusions of movement, and child psychology (Fancher, 1985).
In 1908 the first IQ test was done 25 kids achieve 140 of IQ 40 kids 90 and the poor 75IQ” This kind of measure of intelligence it’s entirely psychological.

The reality is that nobody can measure the can measure the intelligence, so how smart we are? and account said that the first man that was created and love his creator was trusted to Govern the whole world, God entrusted him to do this job , he was not only the governor of the earth, but he had dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the earth and all living creatures he was not lazy but a hard working man this was his normal power, he never got tired after he work .
Intellectually was able to name not to read from a book, to give the name to all animals so he was intelligent to the utmost and was rich in memory , rationality and had a tremendous administrators powers, so about being intelligent nobody told him, nowhere his IQ was measure he acted in the way he was created, that was that way he was made 100%man and his woman 100% woman.
He loved the God that is in Gen chapt 1, John chapt1




Regarding the universe its scientific explanation, the meaning it was made, how the microscopic world interact with the cosmic universe please go to the following site

http://theatheistofdelusion.blogspot.com/

Please pay attention to this.

Rafael.
Nee.
We believe that the entire Bible is the Word of God, and every word of it is inspired. A very grievous thought in the mind of godly ones is that men have despised and opposed His Word. God's children are grieved because men do not respect God's statutes. Among the sixty-six books of the Bible, Genesis has been subjected to the most doubt. Those who oppose the Bible often try to overturn God's clear revelation with geological ages and prehistoric discoveries. The evidences in geology prove to them that the earth has been in existence for tens of thousands of years, and that the record of six thousand years of history in the Bible is untrustworthy. In the name of science, the world hurls its attacks on the book of Genesis. Many dear brothers in the Lord are not that scholarly (the author being one of them) and become lost in this storm. Although geology does not form part of our meditation, for the benefit of all, we will study the Word of God by the Lord's grace at the commencement of our meditation and will consider how perfect is His Word, so that we can silently behold His beauty in His presence. Genesis is God's revelation, while geology is man's invention. God knows the whole truth. As such, His revelation can never be wrong. Man only sees in part. As such, his conjectures are not accurate. When we place Genesis side by side with geology, we should follow Genesis and not geology, because it is God who stands behind Genesis. If there are any basic differences between Genesis and geology, the error must be on the side of geology. The authority of the Bible is undisputed. Everything that is contrary to the Bible is wrong. Thank God our Father that He has given us such a complete revelation. If there are any incompatibilities between God and man, we would rather give up man and accept God. If there is no incompatibility, should not feeble human beings all the more believe in the revelation from heaven? Men often laugh at the ridiculous stories of creation circulated among the Chinese, the Babylonians, and other countries. No scientist has to spend much effort to refute these myths. The reason is that there is not much weight to these traditions. This is why they have not attracted much attention. But men's attitudes towards the Bible are very different. The very fact that they have tried their best to resist the Bible proves the power of the Bible. They cannot treat the Bible the same as the traditions of the nations because they have recognized the extraordinary nature of the Bible. All those who have read Genesis 1 cannot fail to marvel at the beauty of its record. How ordinary it is, yet how marvelous! It is a plain record and contains no theory or arguments to prove its authenticity. The writer of the book was not bound by the book, but was transcendent above its record. The true author of the book is the One who is far above the universe it describes—God. Had the recorder of the book, Moses, written this book according to his own learning and ideas, his thoroughly Egyptian-trained intellect would surely have been influenced by the Egyptian theory of creation. Yet who can detect a trace of Egyptian philosophy in Genesis 1? Why is this? It is because God was the One who inspired Moses to do the writing. Otherwise, how could Moses know that the land came out of the water? This is, of course, a fact established by geology and is a modern discovery. Had Moses not been inspired, it would be difficult to explain this fact. As to the development of life on earth, although the Bible does not support the theory of evolution, it does not altogether reject the fact that there was a progression. First, there were aquatic organisms, and then there was man. Would not a scientist marvel at the record of Moses? The omniscient God must surely have given inspiration according to facts; those who were inspired by such an omniscient God cannot be in error. Yet the Bible is not a textbook of science. Its goal is to guide sinners "unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15). Nevertheless, the Bible does not contain any scientific errors. If there are any contradictions with science, it is either a misinterpretation of the Scripture or a misjudgment of science. Many of the definitive statements by geologists in the past have been overturned! Many of their assertions have been proven wrong. Cummings said, "Geology has made mistakes in the past. It is possible that it will be wrong again. The hasty and loud assertions by those who are not too familiar with its theories may be proved inaccurate again."Since the Bible is not a science textbook, it only mentions the "what’s" of creation without mentioning the "whys." Science is interested in the "whys." Of course, in many cases it is successful in doing this. But one must not overturn the "what’s" with theoretical "whys" just because man's finite mental research has come into conflict with God's record. What God said are the facts because He knows everything. If the world wants to study what God has said and why He has said it, it must not hold on to its own ideas while rejecting God's authority. It is a good thing to have wisdom, but there is one kind of foolishness which is more blessed. Among Christians, there is a popular theory that Genesis 1:1 is a kind of general introduction, and that the work of the six days is actually an expansion of the record of verse 1. In other words, they consider the words "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" as merely a subject of Genesis 1. They say that in the first sentence the writer wrote down a summary of what he was about to say, after which he went at length into an explanation of this sentence. After telling us that God created the heaven and the earth, Genesis goes on to tell us the condition of the earth after creation, and how He created light, air, the land, the plants, and the animals day by day. This popular theory considers Genesis 1 as a record of the creation of the universe, and that the universe was created out of desolation. If we study the first chapter of the Bible carefully, we will see the error in this supposition! This erroneous supposition, not the Bible itself, has put the church into a great debate with the world. This supposition gives men the excuse to say that Genesis is incompatible with geology and casts doubts in the minds of many young people concerning the accuracy of the Bible. In Hebrew, the original language, there are altogether seven words in Genesis 1:1. Each of these seven words has independent meanings. God's inspired record does not say that at the beginning of time, God molded the heavens and the earth into being, or that He made them out of some elements. It says that the heavens and the earth were created. How clear is the word created! To create is to make something out of nothing; it is to create something out of void. It is not to make something out of some existing elements. The word create is Bara in the original language. "In the beginning , God Bara the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). The word Bara is used three other times in Genesis 1 and 2: (1) "And God created (Bara) great whales, and every living creature that moved, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good" (v. 21). (2) "So God created (Bara) man in his own image" (v. 27a). (3) "In it he had rested from all his work which God created (Bara) and made" (2:3b).To create is to make something out of nothing. The great whales and every living creature do not have an outward body only, but a life-element within them. The only way that this can be done is through God's direct work of creation. This is why it says that God created the great whales and every living creature (1:21). There is a very good reason for the Bible to say "created" instead of "made." In the same way, although man's body was made from the dust, 2:7 tells us that man has a spirit and a soul which cannot be made from any physical material. This is why the Bible says that God created man according to His own image. In Genesis 2 there are three words for the act of creation: (1) Bara, which means to make something out of nothing. We have covered this briefly. (2) Asah, which means to make. This word is very different from the first. Bara is to make something out of nothing, while asah means that there is some raw material first, and then something is made out of the raw material. A carpenter can make a chair, but he cannot create a chair. In describing most of the work during the six days, this word is used. (3) Yatsar, which means to complete, has the sense of a potter molding a piece of clay into shape. This is the word used for formed in 2:7. Isaiah 43:7 shows the relationship between these three words: "Everyone who is called by my name, / whom I have created, formed, and even made for my glory." To create is to make something out of nothing, to form is to mold into shape, and to make is to work from some material. Genesis 1:1 uses the word Bara. The phrase in the beginning is a further proof that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. There is no need of any hypothesis. Since God has said this, man should believe. If man wants to fathom God's work in the beginning with his finite mind, he will only expose his own presumptuousness! "By faith we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God" (Heb. 11:3). Furthermore, who can answer God's challenge to Job concerning the creation? God created the heaven and the earth in the beginning. The heaven does not refer to the heaven that surrounds our earth but rather to the heaven of the stars. This "heaven" has not changed since the creation of the universe. Although the heaven has never changed, the condition on earth has changed! If we want to understand Genesis 1, it is very important to differentiate between the earth in verse 1 and the earth in verse 2. The condition of the earth in verse 2 was not the condition at the beginning of God's creation. In the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth, His creation was perfect. God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Therefore, the condition of void and confusion in verse 2 was not the original condition at the time of God's creation. How could God possibly have created an earth that was void and without form? We can answer this question by reading one verse alone. "For thus says Jehovah, / Who created the heavens— / He is the God / Who formed the earth and made it; / He established it; / He did not create it waste, / But He formed it to be inhabited: / I am Jehovah and there is no one else" (Isa. 45:18). How clear this is! The word waste in this verse is the same as the word without form in Genesis 1:2, which thou are in Hebrew. Unfortunately, translators of the Bible have not used the same word in both places. "He did not create it [the earth] without form." Why then does Genesis 1:2 say that "the earth was without form"? It is easy to find the solution. In Genesis 1:1, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth that God created then was not void and without form. Later there was a cataclysm, and the earth became without form and void. Verse 3 does not refer to the original creation, but to a restored earth. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and then during the six days, He re-created the world. The world in Genesis 1:1 was the original world, while the world in 1:3 is our present world. Genesis 1:2 describes the transitional condition of desolation after the initial world and prior to our present world. We do not base our explanation on Isaiah 45:18 alone (even though Isaiah 45:18 alone is sufficient as a proof). We have other evidences. According to Bible scholars, in Hebrew the first word in verse 2 is a conjunction, which should be translated as and. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form, and void."The "and," according to Hebrew usage—as well as that of most other languages—proves that the first verse is not a compendium of what follows, but a statement of the first event in the record.
For if it were a mere summary, the second verse would be the actual commencement of the history, and certainly would not begin with a copulative. A good illustration of this may be found in the fifth chapter of Genesis (Gen. 5:1). There the opening words, "This is the book of the generations of Adam," are a compendium of the chapter, and, consequently, the next sentence begins without a copulative. — G.H. Pember, Earth's Earliest Ages, 1942, reprinted 1975, p. 31.
“Therefore, what follows in Genesis 1:2 is not a detailed explanation of the record in 1:1, but an independent, distinct, and later event”. The creation of the heavens and the earth is one thing, and the earth becoming without form and void is another. Later we will explain why the earth became void and without form. About a hundred years ago, Dr. Chalmers pointed out that the word was in "the earth was without form" should be translated became. Dr. I.M. Haldeman, G.H. Pember, and others also pointed out that this word is the same as the word became used in Genesis 19:26. "And she became a pillar of salt." If the same word is translated became in 19:26, why should it not be translated the same way here? Even the word became in 2:7 is the same word as in 1:2. Therefore, it is not hypothetical to translate 1:2 the following way: "And the earth became without form." When God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was not without form and void. Later it became such. Let us read a few more verses:"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea,
and all that in them is" (Exo. 20:11). Comparing these two verses, we can see that the world in Genesis 1:1 was very different from the world in 1:3. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, but in the six days, God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. There is a vast difference between create and make. One is to have something from nothing, while the other is to improve the things that are in existence. The world can make, but it cannot create, while God can both create and make. This is why Genesis says that "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Later because of the cataclysm, the earth became desolate, and "in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is" (Exo. 20:11).Second Peter 3:5 through 7 says the same thing. The heavens and the earth in verse 5 are the heaven and the earth in Genesis 1:1. Verse 6 speaks of the world flooded with water, which is the earth that was without form and void and that was under the water in Genesis 1:2. "The heavens and earth now" in verse 7 is the restored world after Genesis 1:3. There is a clear difference between God's work in the six days and His work of creation at the beginning. The more we read Genesis 1, the more we will see that our explanation above is the proper one. In the first day light was called into being. Before the first day there was already land, but it was "without form and void" and was buried in the deep under the water. On the third day God did not create the land; He merely caused it to appear. F.W. Grant said that the work of the six days merely put a new order to the earth; it did not create something out of nothing. The earth was there already. The Bible never says that the earth was created during the six days. Grant also said, "At which point did the first day begin? Some may think that it began from desolation. Yet this is not true. The `evening' on the first day indicates light had been there since the beginning. `The darkness he called Night,' yet the `evening' is a darkness that is already under the control of light."In the first day God did not create the light; He merely caused the light to appear on the darkened earth. In the same way in the second day, He did not create the heaven. The heaven there was not the heavens, but the atmospheric "heaven" which surrounds the earth. This was not created then. Where then did the atmosphere come from? Our answer is that it was created in verse 1. Therefore, there was no need now to create; there was only the need to restore."In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." There is no detailed discussion here. We do not know if the primordial world was created in an instant or became what it was through an endless period of time. We do not know if it was completed in a few thousand years or millions of years. We do not know the shape and the size of it. All that we know is that "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." We do not know how many years there were between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1. We do not know how long ago God created the heaven and the earth, and we do not know how many years after the creation of the primordial world did the desolation of verse 2 occur. But we believe that there was a long period of time between the perfect creation at the beginning and the later change into something that was without form and void."In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." How much later was it that "the earth became without form and void"? We cannot tell. But we know one thing: there was a long gap between the two expressions. This long gap between the first two verses of Genesis covers the whole prehistoric period. But from verse 3 until now there are less than six thousand years. Since we have proved that there is a big gap between the first two verses of the Bible, all the years which geology demands to exist and all the geological periods associated with these years can fall within this period. We do not know how much time passed on the earth and how many changes occurred on the earth's surfaces and in the atmosphere before there was the condition of void and formlessness; the Bible does not say anything about it. But we can say for sure that the Bible never says that our earth is only six thousand years old. The Bible only testifies that there are six thousand years of human history. If the Bible has not said something, science can conjecture all it wants. But science cannot form conjectures on what the Bible has already said. After we understand the first two verses of the Bible, we can be assured that there is no contradiction between the Bible and geology. All the attacks by geology on the Bible are beating the air. How wonderful is the Word God has written! We are not saying this to please science. God's revelation never wavers before man. We do not give up the Bible's authority in order to accommodate man's inventions. If there are any contradictions between the Bible and science, (and we would expect there to be some, because fleshly man is always at enmity with God), we have no intention to reconcile and annul these differences. The above assertion was not proposed after some geological discoveries, in an effort to reconcile the Bible with science. There were men in the ancient church who spoke about this. At that time, geology was not yet in existence! When men like St. Augustus interpreted Genesis, the world did not yet have the term geology! A Christian does not trust in human wisdom, but in God's Word. We need nothing other than the sure rock of the Bible. As long as we have the "it is written" (Matt. 4:6) in the Scripture, everything is solved. Unfortunately, many apologetics have forgotten their ground; they change the words of the Scripture to accommodate man's teaching. An example is given by A.W. Pink, who noted that after the translation of a certain Assyrian tablet, the apologetics enthusiastically reported that much of the Old Testament history was verified! This turns things upside down! Does the Word of God need verification? If the record on the Assyrian tablet coincides with that of the Bible, it only shows that the Assyrian tablets have no historical error. If they do not agree, it merely proves that the tablets are in error. Worldly men and vain scientists will of course scorn at our logic. But this only goes to demonstrate God's Word which says, "But a soul’s man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he is not able to know them because they are discerned spiritually" (1 Cor. 2:14). We must never lower ourselves to appease men. It seems like a good idea to change the Bible to suit man's taste, but doing so changes the true nature of the Bible. How wonderful is Genesis 1! It devotes only one verse to the description of the first creation! It uses only one verse to describe the desolation of the world! This is far less than the thirty or so verses that describe the restoration of the world! Who can come up with a composition that matches the record of Genesis 1? The subject is difficult, yet the explanation is clear; the facts span a long time, yet the description is simple. It does not talk about science, yet it is scientifically accurate. Who except God can compose such writing? The reason God did not say more than this is that He only intended to show man His own relationship with man. J.N. Darby said: This revelation from God is not a history by Him of all that He has done, but what has been given to man for his profit, the truth as to what he has to say to. Its object is to communicate to man all that regards his own relationship with God...But historically the revelation is partial. It communicates what is for the conscience and spiritual affections of man...Thus no mention is made of any heavenly beings...Thus also, regards this earth, except the fact of its creation, nothing is said of it beyond what relates to the present form of it. — The Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, reprinted 1970, p. 9.Indeed, God's revelation is not given to satisfy human curiosity, but to manifest His Godhead, the world's sinfulness, the way of salvation, and the coming glory and judgments. The present worldly knowledge is indeed dangerous. Unless God bestows grace on man, man would boast in himself and use the knowledge he acquires as a basis to oppose God. How difficult it is for an intellectual person to humble himself! Man can search for knowledge as much as he wants. But God will not supplement this with His revelation. This is why He does not say much in Genesis 1. Our present need is not more science, but deeper spiritual fellowship. Only this will reap real fruit in eternity. We have to praise God the Father because He is full of love! He not only created us, but re-created us, and made us a new creation in the Lord Jesus. Lord Jesus! How sweet is this name! God has given us His Son. What a marvelous grace this is!
THE ORIGINAL WORLD AND AFTERWORDS DESOLATION
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth perfect. Later, after an unknown period of time, the earth which was originally good became waste and empty, without any life whatsoever. God then rose up to recreate the world; He restored the desolate world in six days. In the next chapter we will study the work of the six days. Now we will consider why the world became desolate. How could God allow the work of His hands to be destroyed? Why did such a catastrophe come upon the once beautiful earth? There is probably no other reason besides sin. The question we are considering has no perfectly clear explanation in the Bible. Nevertheless, we can find many shimmering lights in the Word of God which will enlighten us concerning this question and which will enable us to have a little more understanding concerning the former world and the cause of its desolation. Only the Word of God can guide us and our thoughts. The understanding of His Word, regardless of the question being discussed, always brings us edification. The greatest vanity is the reasoning’s in man's mind which do not rest on the foundation of God's Word. Although in reading Genesis 3 we cannot find Satan's name, we all know that the serpent was Satan's vessel and perhaps was even the embodiment of the devil. Revelation 12:9 say, "And the great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he who is called the Devil and Satan, he who deceives the whole inhabited earth." Genesis 1 gives no record of the creation of Satan. Where did he come from? This is a problem. Furthermore, we can see many evil spirits in both the Old and New Testaments; we meet them even more frequently in the Gospels. Where did they come from? We also do not see the creation of angels in the six days of work in Genesis 1. Where, then, did the angels who are frequently mentioned in the Bible come from? These questions are all related to our subject. Since the creation of the angels and the other supernatural beings is not recorded in Genesis 1, which covers the work of God during six days, we know that they were not created during that time. Since they were not created within these six days, when were they created? The only explanation is that they were creatures of the former world—the original, perfect world. As the fossil remains clearly show, not only were disease and death—inseparable companions of sin—then prevalent among the living creatures of the earth, but even ferocity and slaughter. And the fact proves that these remains have nothing to do with our world; since the Bible declares that all things made by God during the Six Days were very good, and that no evil was in them till Adam sinned...Since, then, the fossil remains are those of creatures anterior to Adam, and yet show evident tokens of disease, death, and mutual destruction, they must have belonged to another world and have a sin-stained history of their own, a history which ended in the ruin of themselves and their habitation. — G. H. Pember, Earth's Earliest Ages, 1942, reprinted 1975, pp. 34-35.By reading Jeremiah 4:23-26, we see the reason why the earth became waste and emptiness. Verse 26 says that it was due to "His [Jehovah's] burning anger." Why was the Lord so angry? It was probably because of the sin of the creatures at that time. Isaiah 24:1 says that "Jehovah now makes the earth desolate." Why would the Lord destroy the earth of His original creation? Judging from the history of our own world, we can answer that it was probably because of the sin of the earth's inhabitants which forced God to judge them. We have said before that when we read Genesis, we do not see the origin of Satan. As we look into the cause of earth's desolation in the beginning, our mind will naturally think "an enemy has done this" (Matt. 13:28). Other than attributing the cause to Satan, it seems that we cannot find any other clues in the Bible. We will study a portion of the Bible which seems to tell us the origin of God's enemy and thereby we may know the condition of the former world and the cause of its becoming desolate. Let us now read Ezekiel 28:1-19. These nineteen verses are divided into two sections: (1) verses 1-10 concern the prophet's warning to the prince of Tyrus, and (2) verses 11-19 concern the prophet's lamentations upon the king of Tyrus. The first section, a word to the prince of Tyrus, is easy to understand. He was exalted with pride, considered himself God, and thought that he was wiser than Daniel. Due to his progress in commerce, he became puffed up. Therefore God punished him, causing him to be slain and destroyed by the terrible of the nations. Soon after this prophecy, Nebuchadnezzar of the Chaldeans came and destroyed Tyre. Josephus believed that the prince of Tyrus was Ithobalus, who was called Ithobaal II in the history of the Phoenicians. Since we know that this prophecy has already been fulfilled, it is not difficult for us to interpret verses 1 through 10. But when we read on from verses 11 through 19, we find many places that we do not understand. Since this portion of the Word is very much related to the subject which we are studying now, we quote the text in full: Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou seals up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou was created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covered; and I have set thee so: thou was upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou was perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more (Ezek. 28:11-19).This section is indeed hard to understand, for it contains many expressions which cannot be applied to any mortal man. If the "king of Tyrus" were only a mortal man, how could we explain the things in verses 11 through 15? How could the king of Tyrus have been in the Garden of Eden or upon the holy mountain of God? How could he have been the anointed cherub that covered the ark? None of the things mentioned here had been the experience of the king of Tyros’. We cannot explain this section simply by spiritualizing it. It is unfair if we spiritualize the interpretation of a section when we encounter difficulties in it. I believe that the first section (vv. 1-10) addressed to the prince of Tyros’ was a word spoken to King Ithobalus II, and the second section (vv. 11-19), the lamentation upon the king of Tyros’, denotes the coming Antichrist. Verse 2 of this chapter speaks of Tyro "in the midst of the seas." By reading Daniel 11:41-45, we know that when the coming Antichrist will be in Palestine, perhaps he will dwell at Tyro. That is why he was called the king of Tyro here. Moreover, Antichrist is Satan incarnate; therefore, numerous expressions in this section refer to Satan himself. Mr. Darby said, "Verses 11-19, while continuing to speak of Tyro, go, I think, much farther, and disclose, though darkly, the fall and the ways of Satan, become through our sin the prince and god of this world." Dr. A. C. Gaebelein also said that the king of Tyro is a type of the last great sinner (Antichrist), that behind this evil king, we see another power that is Satan; Satan was the power behind the king of Tyros’ then, and he still is the god of this age now, who rules the nations of this world. If we have studied the Scriptures carefully, we will realize that the justification for merging Satan and Antichrist in this passage into one being is not contrary to the general teachings of the Scriptures. We know that, although human beings have their own will, their walk is either directed by God's operating (Phil. 2:13) or by the operating of the evil spirits (Eph. 2:2). Human beings are never totally free. Ordinarily, human beings are under the control of the evil spirits. Sometimes, in important matters, Satan himself, in addition to the working of evil spirits, will also participate in the work. Hence, we see him personally coming to tempt Christ in the wilderness. Later, in trying to hinder Christ from going to the cross, he personally used Peter. After that, in attempting to destroy Christ, he entered into Judas. Eventually, on the world stage he will be united to Antichrist. Scripture says that the works of Antichrist are "according to Satan's operation" (2 Thess. 2:9); it is Satan who "gave him his power and his throne and great authority" (Rev. 13:2). Since Antichrist is the incarnated devil, the Holy Spirit speaks of him together with Satan in this passage. In these few verses, the superhuman aspects all refer to Satan himself, and the remainder to Antichrist. Since our purpose is not to study the question of Antichrist, but to know the creatures of the former world and the cause of its desolation, we shall put aside the verses in this portion concerning the Antichrist and concentrate on Satan, who is related to our subject. Now let us consider the words that refer to Satan. Ezekiel 28:12 says that Satan (Note: "Satan" is the name used after he had sinned; he was called the "son of the dawn" and also "Daystar" or "Lucifer" (Isa. 14:12) before his fall. "Satan," which means "adversary," is his name after the fall. For the sake of convenience, we shall call him Satan in the following paragraphs.) "Sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty." This depicts his condition before he had sinned. He was superior to all the other angels. Phrases like "sealest up the sum," "full of," and "perfect" reveal that he was the greatest of all the creation. God had put him above all the creation. Being "full of wisdom" probably refers to his understanding of God's will; if this is true, he might have had the office of a prophet already. The first part of Ezekiel 28:13 says, "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering." When we read Genesis 3, we indeed see Satan there. However, he was not being covered by "every precious stone"; he was tempting Adam and Eve. Hence, the two gardens of Eden are not of the same time. In Adam's Garden of Eden, Satan had fallen, whereas here, it clearly depicts the situation before his fall. Hence, the garden of Eden here must be earlier than the one at Adam's time. If so, then it must not have belonged to the present world but to the previous one. This Garden of Eden, like the coming New Jerusalem, had many precious stones, such as sardius, beryl, etc. The Garden of Eden where Adam lived was not like this. The Bible focuses only on the trees and does not say anything concerning their being covered with precious stones. Hence, the Garden of Eden here must be different from that of Adam and is much earlier. His being covered with the precious stones reminds us of the precious stones on the priest in Exodus. He probably had been appointed by God to be a priest. The latter half of the verse says, "The workmanship of thy tablets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee." In the Bible musical instruments are used by kings. We see how David played the harp for king Saul. When the king of Babylon was destroyed, the sound of his lutes were said to be brought down to Sheol (Isa. 14:11). And when the king of Babylon was pleased, various musical instruments were played (Dan. 3). Satan was a king at that time and these musical instruments were given to him by God. The first half of Ezekiel 28:14 says that he is "the anointed cherub that covered." Anointed indicates that he is consecrated. The work of the cherubim is to lead men to worship the Lord (Rev. 4:9-10; 5:11-14). Therefore, his work in the beginning was also to lead the creatures at that time in the worship of God. This also refers to his priesthood. The latter part of verse 14 says that he was "upon the holy mountain of God" and had "walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire." The holy mountain of God probably is the place where God's glory is manifested. As the priest of God, he would, of course, stand before Him to minister. What does it mean to walk "up and down in the midst of the stones of fire"? Ezekiel 1:26 reveals that the position of the cherubim is below the throne. Now when Moses took seventy of the elders of Israel up the mountain of Sinai, "they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness...And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount" (Exo. 24:10, 17). The paved work of sapphire stone in the appearance of devouring fire probably was "the stones of fire." This indicates that Satan enjoyed a very high place, right below the throne of God, and was very intimate with God. Verse 15 says that he was perfect in his ways from the day that he was created, but that later God found iniquity in him. All of God's creation was perfect; God is not the author of sin. Iniquity was initiated by the archangel who sinned. He was created and given a free will by God just as we were. Unfortunately God's created angel abused his freedom! And how many people are still following his footsteps! The first part of verse 16 says that by the multitude of his merchandise they have filled his midst with violence, and he has sinned. We may refer this word solely to Antichrist. During the end time commerce will be very prosperous (Rev. 18). Many sinful things will be brought in because of this. This can be proven by history.Nevertheless; the same clause may be applied to Satan. Mr. Pember points out that "the word translated `merchandise' may also...signify `detraction' or `slander'; and we know that the very name `Devil' means `the slanderer,' or `malignant accuser'" (Earth's Earliest Ages, p. 52). Thus, we can find out the meaning here. We see how Satan accused Job and tried to destroy him with insidious acts. Also in Revelation 12:10 we read, "Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ, for the accuser of our brothers has been cast down, who accuses them before our God day and night." The casting down here probably corresponds to the casting of Satan out of the mountain of God in Ezekiel. The reason for the casting out in Ezekiel and in Revelation is one and the same, that is, accusation (or slander). Perhaps what was recorded in Ezekiel was the conviction of Satan by God and what was written in Revelation was the sending of Michael by God for the execution of that conviction. Then why would God still allow Satan to remain in the heavens? The reasons seem to be: (1) the time of God has not yet come, and (2) His own children need the furnace to purge away the dross still in them. Ezekiel 28:17 reveals the cause of Satan's fall. His heart was lifted up because of his beauty, and his wisdom was corrupted by reason of his brightness. The king of Babylon as described in Isaiah 14:12-14 bears much resemblance to this verse. Many servants of God believe that the Holy Spirit is not only pointing out the king of Babylon, but in a deeper sense, the cause of the fall of Satan who was behind the king of Babylon. In my view, the record in Ezekiel reveals the cause of his pride, while in Isaiah it shows the manner in which he exhibited his pride. It is probable that after comparing himself with God's other creatures, his heart was lifted up. In the end he tried to exalt himself to be equal with God and thus suffered God's judgment. "How you have fallen from heaven, / O Daystar, son of the dawn! /...But you, you said in your heart: / I will ascend to heaven; / above the stars of God / I will exalt my throne. / And I will sit upon the mount of assembly / On the sides of the north. / I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; / I will be like the Most High" (Isa. 14:12-14). Since he was so proud, God punished him. His authority in the heavens was removed and abolished by God. The remaining part of the prophecy in Ezekiel is not relevant to our subject, and we shall stop here. From the prophecy contained in this passage in Ezekiel, if our interpretation is correct, we can see how God created Satan the fairest and wisest of all His creatures in the former world and made him their leader. God placed him in the garden of Eden, which was long before the Eden of Adam. The things in the former garden, if not altogether different from those of the latter garden, were at least more numerous than the latter. They resemble the future New Jerusalem. He was a prophet there, teaching all the inhabitants of the earth with his wisdom to know how to serve God. He was also there as the priest of God, directing them in the worship and praises of God. He was also the king among the creatures, having been placed in a position that was above all the creation. He must have been in such a condition for a lengthy period of time (v. 15), but because of his sin, he became the greatest enemy of God. So far we have covered the origin of Satan. We shall now proceed to cover Satan's angels and demons, which are under him, and to investigate how they fell and how this affected the earth, causing it to become waste and void. From the New Testament we see that under the hand of Satan there are two living beings: (1) angels and (2) demons. Let us first look at the angels. Matthew 25:41 speaks of "the devil and his angels." Revelation 12:4 says that the dragon's "tail drags away the third part of the stars of heaven, and he cast them to the earth." The stars denote the angels (Rev. 1:20). Therefore 12:9 says, "And the great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he who is called the Devil and Satan,...he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him." These angels were probably the ones established by God in the beginning to assist Satan to rule the world. They were "the congregation of the mighty" and "the gods" in Psalm 82 (cf. John 10:35). When Satan fell, they either conspired or sympathized with him. Therefore, they fell together with him and became today's "rulers," "authorities," "world-rulers of this darkness," "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenliest" (Eph. 6:12). Note that the numbers are plural. These angels are not disembodied demons; they have ethereal bodies. This is why the Lord promises that the children of resurrection will be like the angels in the heaven. Satan has another class of subjects, the evil spirits. Demons and the evil spirits (or filthy spirits) are the same. We can tell this by checking with the translation of the Mandarin Bible. In Matthew 8:16, it firstly mentions the demons, then the spirits. But the Bible translators, seeing that the Holy Spirit used the words "demon" and "spirit" interchangeably, translated both into "demons." In Luke 10:17 the word "demons" is in the original language, but in verse 20 the word "demons" should be "spirits." In these two verses of the Bible we see the Lord Jesus acknowledged the "demons" and the "spirits" to be the same and thus the Chinese Bible translator again translated both as "demons." Matthew 17:18 speaks of the Lord casting out a demon, yet Mark calls this demon an unclean spirit and dumb spirit (Mark 9:25). Demons and spirits are the same. These demons, or spirits, probably were the race who lived in the former world. They helped Satan in his sinning; or, perhaps after Satan sinned, they followed him rather than forsaking him and obeying God. Therefore, they were cut off by God and their bodies were removed from them. Hence, they became disembodied spirits. Although we cannot find any clear evidence in the Bible to confirm this theory, we can find some clues. In Matthew 12 we see the situation of a demon when he left the human body. He became helpless and wandered about. Besides the human body, he could not find another resting place. Therefore, he eventually returned to his original place, the human body. If they were not disembodied spirits, why did they have to enter into man's body? As we read Luke 8, we see how the legion of demons was unwilling to leave the human body. When they had no way to remain in the human body, they even entered the bodies of the swine. Presently in the world they still cling to human bodies. Even some believers are unconsciously possessed by them. They are different from Satan and his angels who do not like to enter human bodies. Satan and his angels still have a spiritual body, but the demons do not. Their character and liking seem to prove that they are the disembodied spirits. Since they are disembodied spirits, where were they when they were disembodied? We know that the spirits of all the dead are in Hades. So, where do these spirits come from? They must have come from the former world. While they were alive, their habitation was probably the former world where Satan exercised his rule. In the Bible we can find another clue that tells us that there were inhabitants in the pre-Adamic world. Isaiah 45:18 shows that the world created by God in the beginning was not waste and empty. Since this verse speaks of the original world, one expression suggests to us the existence of mankind in the previous world. It says, "He is the God / who formed the earth... / He did not create it waste." This clearly refers to the original creation. Following this it says, "He formed it to be inhabited." This seems to clearly tell that the earth then was inhabited by some race. As we read the Bible further, we find clues which indicate that there is a detention place for the demons now. The legion of demons in Gadara must have known this. They were in great fear and begged the Lord that He would not "order them to depart into the abyss," (Luke 8:31) because they would be tormented there (Matt. 8:29). Mr. Pember says that this "abyss" in the original language is abussos; and that "in some passages, such as the ninth chapter of the Apocalypse, this term is evidently applied to a fiery hollow in the centre of the earth: but it is also used for the depths of the sea, a meaning which accords well with its derivation" (Earth's Earliest Ages, p. 60). In the future Satan will be detained in a bottomless pit in the center of the earth. This is revealed in the book of Revelation. The demons are also detained in an abyss now, yet some of them still have freedom. We must wait until God's appointed time comes for them to be completely shut inside. This abyss is probably different from the one in the heart of the earth; it is in the sea. Furthermore, at the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) when all the prisoners will have been thrown into the lake of fire, there will be no more sea in the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1). However, there may be only one abyss that is divided into two parts. There are other clues concerning the sea being the place of detention for demons. In the Septuagint Bible, the word "deep" in Genesis 1:2 is the same as "abyss" here. We have said that these demons are probably created races that lived in the first world. This corresponds to what we read in Genesis 1:2 because they originally lived on the earth. After sinning, their bodies were destroyed by God; their habitation was judged by God and became without form and void. The whole earth was covered by water and was characterized as "the deep." It follows then that the spirits of the races at that time were in this "deep"! Finally, on the third day when God restored the earth, He commanded the earth to come out from the water and called the gathering of the waters the sea. This earth was prepared for mankind in the new world. Where then have the former demons gone? We can spontaneously answer that they went into the sea. As we read Revelation 20:13, we often do not understand why the sea will give up the dead which are in it. It is understandable to say that death and Hades will deliver up the dead which are in them, but why will the sea give up the dead who are in it? The common interpretation is that the sea surrenders the bodies of those who are drowned. If so, then the earth should also give up its dead because there are more bodies buried in the earth than in the sea. Yet the earth does not give up its dead. Therefore, the sea will give up the spirits of the imprisoned ones and not the bodies of the dead. Men's spirits are in death and Hades; the Bible does not say that the spirits of man are kept in the sea. Then whose spirits will the sea give up? It will give up those who are from the other world, that is, the former world. The sequence here indicates this. "The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them." Those who lived in the former world died first. Therefore, they will be the first beings to be given up; then, we who are of this world will follow after because every man will be judged in his own order. Thus far we have seen the probable origin of Satan, his angels, and the demons. As to how man lived on the former earth, this is something beyond our knowledge. However, we can see some hints in the Bible. Many Bible scholars, Dr. Scofield being one of them, believe that Jeremiah 4:23-26 refers to the condition of Genesis 1:2, in which the earth was without form and void. Although the context of this passage is the desolation of Judah, these few verses of the Scripture have a notably broader view, as if God caused the prophet to view the desolation of the earth in the beginning. If our belief is accurate, then we know that in the former world there was "the fruitful land" and "its cities" (v. 26). The inhabitants then dwelt in cities and some took up farming as an occupation. When they were deceived by Satan, the burning anger of Jehovah came upon them (v. 26) and the earth became "waste and emptiness" (v. 23).From these biblical clues we see the original situation of the earth, the races who dwelt on the earth, the paradise, and the princes, etc. If we are not mistaken in our meditation, we can draw a conclusion concerning the first world and the cause of its desolation as follows: In the beginning of "time" (as opposed to eternity) God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was not waste (Isa. 45:18) but very beautiful and perfect. On this earth there were inhabitants and the number of the inhabitants was great. Before God created the earth and human beings, He had created the angels (Job 38:6-7). He assigned Satan, whom He created, as the leader to be above all the angels. Satan, the most beautiful and wisest of all, the prime of all God's creation, dwelt in the Garden of Eden. God made him the ruler of the world; therefore, he was called "the ruler of the world" (John 14:30). Many angels were under his rule, and these angels shared in ruling with him. Then, because of his position and honor, he became proud. Due to pride, he rebelled and lifted himself up to be equal with God. He was not satisfied with being a creature, but desired to be the Creator. Therefore, he slandered God before the people and accused the people before God. God found out his iniquity and condemned him. When the time comes, he will be cast to the earth. One third of the angels (Rev. 12) followed him in rebellion and, therefore, became the angels of the devil. God has prepared hell for them (Matt. 25:41), and when the time comes, Satan will be cast into it. In the former world, the inhabitants of the earth, being under Satan and his angels' rule, were also deceived and filled up with sins. (We can readily understand this when we consider our world situation today.) Therefore, God's anger was fierce, and He completely destroyed the earth and all the races therein and locked up many spirits in the abyss in the sea. These evil spirits, angels, and Satan himself formed the kingdom of darkness. We do not know how long this period lasted. Later, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters again, and the Triune God began His restoration work on the world. After His restoration of the world, He created Adam and his wife and asked them to guard it, so that there would be man on the earth to cooperate with Him in heaven to stop Satan's power. Perhaps God used Adam to test Satan to see whether he would repent. However, he came to tempt Adam; therefore, God cursed Satan. Because Adam fell, he could not bring the world which was under Satan's rule back to God. On the contrary, the world Adam received from God's hand was given anew to Satan. Since angels and mankind had failed, God came in the person of the Son to be a man, the last Adam. The Lord Jesus became God's prophet, priest, and king. When He was on this earth, He was God's prophet without blemish. When He was about to die, He was able to say, "The ruler of the world is coming, and in me he has nothing" (John 14:30). At His death all who are in Adam were crucified in Him. He was able to include all of the old Adamic creation in His crucifixion because He is God, and He is able to continue on as the new man. His human living had nothing to do with Satan. Through His death and resurrection, He regained the world lost by the first Adam. Every sinner, who is destined to die in the old Adam, can return to God and be saved if he rejects the first Adam through the death of the last Adam and joins himself to Christ in life. This is the meaning of believing in the death of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, whoever believes in the Lord Jesus becomes an enemy of the devil. In everything he attacks us, and in everything we resist him, his angels, and the demons. This is God's purpose in saving man, and this is a real spiritual warfare. Satan was judged once on the "holy mountain of God," and he was judged again on the hill of Golgotha. He has been convicted, yet his judgment has not yet been executed. When the time comes he will be cast down from heaven and when the Son of God returns to this earth, he will be cast into the abyss. After one thousand years he will forever suffer in the lake of fire. Now the Lord Jesus holds the authority which Satan had abused, and He will hold it until all traces of rebellion disappear. He has brought His own blood into the Holy of Holies and has cleansed the heavens; He is now a Priest of God. When He returns, it will be the time of the restoration of all things. He will be a King, ruling this world from heaven with all the overcoming saints, in the same way that Satan ruled with his angels in the former time. At that time He will teach the inhabitants of this earth to know God's will and to worship God, in the same way that Satan did in the former days. The situation in the millennium will be like the situation in the world before Satan sinned. Christ will restore all things to the condition in the "beginning" in order to accomplish God's original purpose. After this He will burn up the whole world, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth in which the righteous will dwell. Therefore, as God's children we ought to have a deeper enmity for the devil. For thousands of years God's only purpose has been for man to be joined with Him to destroy Satan's authority. Our God is a law-abiding God. He will not take back by force the world which was lost through man. Therefore, He sent His Son to become a man in order to regain what man had lost. We, men who have been saved, ought to cooperate with the unique "Man," the Lord Jesus. In our life, in our work, in our environment, in our dwelling, and in the world, we should resist the works of the devil. Our resistance is in firmness of faith (1 Pet. 5:9), and not by means of fleshly weapons (2 Cor. 10:4), which is the way of social reformers who are being utilized by the demons. Satan was wise and beautiful! But because of his pride, he ended up in complete ruin. It is dangerous for frail mortals to esteem themselves wise and beautiful! Beware, lest being lifted up with pride, you fall into the judgment of the devil (1 Tim. 3:6). Being self-exalted with pride is not a blessing to man; wisdom rests only with those who fear the most high God Jehovah.
THE EARTH RESTORED THE RECOVERY OF THE EARTH IN SIX DAYS
We have seen that in the beginning God created a perfect world. Later, because of the sins committed by Satan and those who dwelt on the earth, they and the earth were judged by God, and the earth became without form and void. Now we will see God's work of restoring the earth. In the book of Job, Job mentions the failure of Satan's rebellion in order to show that it is foolish to dispute with God. "He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? which removed the mountains, and they know not; which overturned them in his anger; which shakes’ the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble; which commanded the sun, and it rises not; and sealed up the stars" (Job 9:4-7). When did God do this? When did He shake the mountains and the earth, and alter the position of the celestial bodies due to man's stubbornness towards Him? Since the time of Adam, such an act of God in the world has not been seen. This passage must be a description of God's judgment on Satan and on the earth under his dominion when he rebelled. At that time God shook the earth and overturned the mountains. The calamity came so swiftly that the mountains were overturned unnoticed. In addition to the earth, the positions of the celestial bodies were also affected. Because of God's judgment, the sun disappeared completely and the stars did not shine. The world was plunged into darkness. There was no sun


 
Response from : rafael  

April 13, 2008 1:55 PM
 

I shall begin by assuming that the issue of God's existence is settled. We all believe that there is a God. As those who desire to know the truth, we must go one step further to find out what kind of God He is. God is the greatest Unknown. We must spend some time to find out about this unknown One. The next step now is to know what kind of a God He is. In the past few thousand years man has been inquiring about the nature of God. Is He kind or is He righteous? Is He indifferent towards us, or is He extremely interested in human affairs? These types of questions are the direct cause of all human religions. What is religion? Religion is man's inquiry about God and his explanation of Him. Through these explanations, different men have arrived at different concepts about God. What kind of God is He? This is a big question. It is also a very serious question. We have all given our thought to this subject at one time or another. The question might even have occurred to our little mind when we were five years old. All men, educated or ignorant, have been intrigued by this question. It comes naturally after some contemplation and observation. But a person trying to speculate about God is like an ant attempting to understand a human being. It is extremely difficult for the little creature to try to realize our life, nature, and mind. In the same way it is impossible for us to try to comprehend God. For this reason, in the past few thousand years, all kinds of people, theologians and philosophers alike, have done much thinking about Him. What has God been doing all this time? Has He been indifferent to us or has He tried to reveal Himself to us? What is God's attitude? Do you think He would say, "I am God and have nothing to do with human beings. I do not care what you think about me. I shall stay in heaven as God. Let the mortals be ignorant!" Or do you think He has a desire to reveal Himself to man and visit him? When I was in India, I saw some people lying naked on beds studded with nails. Some walked with bare feet on burning coals. These people devoted a great deal of energy to seeking after God. What has God done to them? Did He hide Himself and take no notice of them at all? Has He not kept Himself as a perpetual mystery? This is a great question. We have to consider it scientifically and objectively in order to find out what God is like. A few years ago I spoke on a similar subject to some medical students in an auditorium in Cheloo University. I said that man is an organism with a life. God also is a life. Man's life is higher than that of the lower animals, and God's life is even higher than that of man. I asked the students, "Since we realize that all living organisms have some common laws and express some common traits, can you name them?" Different ones then started to bring up different points. At the end we summed up the discussion in this way: all living organisms contain two common characteristics. You can call these characteristics their common expressions or their common laws. First, every life wants to preserve itself. It tends to reproduce itself. There is the ability to produce posterity, to continue its own life. Second, every life wants to have fellowship with other lives. It cannot stand being by itself. When a man cannot find fellowship with another human being, he goes to dogs, cats, fish, or birds and makes friends with animals. All living creatures desire fellowship. Based on these two characteristics of life, namely, the preservation of itself and fellowship with others, laws of human government are instituted. For example, the death penalty reflects a convict's desire to preserve his own life; punishment comes in the form of taking away and terminating such a life. This is the way to inflict suffering on a life. Imprisonment, as a less serious punishment, cuts him off from having fellowship with others. This reversal of the life principle becomes then a suffering for him. From this we see that punishment is applied according to the principles of life. With these two chief characteristics in mind, let us turn to the life of God. God is an organism of a higher order than human beings. He is naturally governed by this law of life. We can know God by the characteristics and distinctive features of His life. From this we can deduce whether or not God wants to have fellowship with man. There are two kinds of religion: religion based on natural concepts and religion based on revelation. Natural religion starts with man as the center. He is the one that is seeking after God and studying about Him. What then is revelational religion? Revelational religion comes directly from God. He is the One who comes to reveal things to us. Man's thoughts are often useless fancies. God's revelation alone is trustworthy. Christianity is different from all other natural religions in that it is a religion that comes from revelation. Christianity begins from God. It is God who comes to seek out man, rather than man who seeks after God. I will not try to persuade you to believe in Christianity or to read the Bible. I will only make a few suppositions. We will treat the subject in the same way as if we were solving a problem in geometry. We will start from the suppositions and then deduce our arguments step by step. We will examine our reasoning’s to see if they are sound and if our conclusions are logical. As in mathematics, with some problems we work forwards, while with others we work backwards. At any rate, in the end we should be able to tell whether or not a supposition is justified. We have to make a few suppositions. The first one is that God exists. This in fact has been covered by us already. We have agreed that there is a God. He is a Being who has a purpose. Second, we assume that God has a desire to reveal Himself to man. If God wants to reveal Himself to man and if He wants us to know Him, how does He do it? In what manner can He be made known to us? If He speaks to us through thunder or writes to us through lightning, we will not be able to comprehend His message. How then does God make Himself known to us? If He is to reveal Himself and if He wants us to know Him, He necessarily must do it through human means. What then are the common ways that men communicate with one another? First, they do it through speaking and second through writing. All means of communication, whether telegraph, telephone, sign, or symbols, are all included in these two categories. If God is to manifest Himself, these are the only two means for Him to do so. For the present we set aside the aspect of speaking; we will see how God communicates with us through writing. If God reveals Himself through writing, of all the volumes written by different people throughout the centuries, there must be one book which is divinely inspired. This is a very crucial test. If such a book exists, it proves not only the existence of God, but it contains His written revelation to us as well. Is there then such a divinely written book? In the search for such a book, let us first mention a few basic principles. Suppose I want to order a book from a publisher. If I can tell him the name and author of the book, there will be no trouble getting it. If, however, I forget the name and author of the book, I can describe the characteristics of it to the publisher, such as the contents, size, color, binding, etc. The publisher will then search through all his books and locates the volume I want. God has one book in this universe. How do we find it? We have to know its characteristics first. If there is any book that has been written by God, it must meet certain conditions or have certain qualifications before one can say that it is from God. Let me put forth a few propositions. If there is a book written by God, it must first of all mention God. It must tell you that it is from God and that its author is God. This is the first qualification. Second, it must carry a moral tone that is higher than what we commonly know. If it is a fabrication, it can at the most be on the same level as man. Third, if there is such a divine book, it must tell us about the past and the future of this world. Only God knows clearly what occurred in the past and what will happen in the future. Only by telling us these matters will we know Him as God. Fourth, this book must be simple and available so that all may be able to secure and understand it. If there were only one such book in the world, then only a very few people would be able to see it. It would not pass the test unless it is a book accessible to everyone. In the United States there is a group of people who claim to have a book from God. It is engraved in gold and contains only twelve pages. Such a book then would not be accessible to the Chinese. God would never write to us a book at which we could not look. Now the matter is simplified. Let us repeat these four conditions once more.
(1) If such a book exists, it must tell us explicitly that its author is God.
(2) It must carry a high tone of morality.
(3) It must give a detailed description of the past and the future of the universe.
(4) It must be available.
Let us pick out some of the more important writings throughout human civilization and check them against these qualifications to see if any meets our requirements. We will start from books that are generally considered to be good. Let us take the Chinese classics of Confucius. They are immediately disqualified under the first requirement, for none of them claims to be written by God. They do have a high tone of morality, but they fail to give the origin and destiny of the world, the universe, and man. This does not mean that they are worthless books; it means that they do not contain the qualifications we want. They are not what we are looking for. Let us go to the classics of other cultures. There are numerous volumes of famous writings, but none of them passes the first test. They are all clearly written by man. They may be masterpieces in philosophy or morality, but they are not written by God, nor are they divinely inspired. We have to set them aside. There is a book in India called the Rig-Veda. It once dominated Hinduism. However, it does not claim to be written by God. Another book called the Avesta, written by a Persian named Zoroaster, is also extremely influential in the Middle East. It does not claim to be from God either. Moreover, its moral tone is not especially commendable. Let us come to the Koran of Mohammedanism. This is the closest one we can find. It tells us that it comes from God; it meets the first requirement. However, it does not fulfill the second requirement, for its moral tone is too low. The heaven it describes is full of lusts and flesh. God could never write a book with such licentiousness and immorality. Hence, this book does not pass the test of morality. After searching through all the books, you have to come finally to the Bible. If God desires to communicate with man, and if He does so through writing, then this is the only book that can pass the four tests. Hence, this must be the book God has for man. What does this book say? In the books of the law in the Old Testament, it says, "Thus saith the Lord," at least five hundred times. Other books in the Old Testament repeat the phrase about seven hundred times. In addition to the references in the New Testament to the speaking of God, the Bible has more than two thousand claims of divine origin. If God has no intention of communicating with man, we can forget about this book. But if He does communicate with man through writing, then this book has to be of immense value. Can you find another book where God is claimed as its author that many times? We have to see if the Bible meets the second qualification. Let us take a look at its moral tone. Everyone who has studied this book confesses that it carries the highest moral standard. Even the sins of the noblest persons are recorded and condemned without mercy. Once a strong opposer of the Bible was asked by his son, "Why are you so strong against the Bible?" He answered, "If I do not condemn it, it will condemn me." This book does not let us get by easily. The human concept is that all sexual acts outside marriage are considered as fornication. The Bible, however, says that even an evil thought is fornication. Human morality condemns an act of killing as murder, but the Bible condemns a slight hatred in the heart as murder. We consider a man who lets his enemy get by without paying vengeance as forgiving. But the Bible charges man to love his enemy. How high is its moral tone and how low we are before its standards! You cannot help but admit that it presents the best ethical code for humanity. Furthermore, this book describes in detail the past and future of the universe. Once a friend told me that he could believe in everything the Bible says except the parts in Genesis and Revelation where it talks about the origin and destiny of the heavens and earth. I told him that if this is indeed a book from God, it must, of necessity, contain these matters. If the Bible did not contain Genesis and Revelation, it would be the same as any other book, and we would have to look for another book; it would not be the one we want. But the past condition of the world and its future destiny are recorded here. Hence, the third qualification is also met. What is the circulation of such a book? Last year (1935), more than two hundred million copies were sold. Can you name another book that has such a high circulation rate? This statistic, moreover, is not limited to just last year; every year the number has remained approximately the same. In one sense this book is very popular. In another sense it is like a thorn in your hand; it pierces you. This book gives you a headache. It creates an unspeakable uneasiness within man. It even causes man to oppose it. In spite of this, its annual sales are still over two hundred million. Furthermore, this book is translated into more than seven hundred twenty languages. In every country and among every race, there is a translation of this unique book. It is extremely easy for anyone to obtain a Bible anywhere in the world. If the Rig-Veda were God's book, then more than half of the world would perish due to a failure in obtaining it. Even if you put the Rig-Veda in my hand, I would still be unable to understand it. If only the educated ones can contact God, then I am destined to go to hell. If only the Indians have the opportunity, we Chinese, as well as other races, are out of hope. If God speaks through the Rig-Veda, then where can we find that book? Maybe we can only find the original copy in the London Museum. And even that may not contain the original meaning of God's revelation to man. This is not all. The Bible contains sixty-six books and it is divided into the Old and New Testaments. It was written by no less than thirty people. The span from the time the first book was written to the time when the last book was finished is more than sixteen hundred years. The places where they were written are also different. Some were written in Babylon, some in Italy, some at one end of Asia Minor, others at the other end of the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the writers themselves differed in their backgrounds. Some were lawyers; some were fishermen. There were princes, and there were shepherds. All these writings by men of different backgrounds, languages, environments, and periods are put together. The amazing thing is that it is still a complete book. All those who have had some experience of editing know that in order to put together a few articles written by different authors, it is necessary for the authors to be of comparable level of academic achievements and viewpoints. Even when the academic standard and viewpoints are similar, there will still be conflicts and contradictions when you put five or six articles together. But the Bible, though complex in contents, contains history, poetry, laws, prophecies, biographies, and doctrines and was written by so many different ones at different times and under different circumstances, yet when you put them together, they surprisingly run as one continuous volume. There is no conflict or contradiction. They are written in one breath. If you read this book carefully, you have to admit that God's hand is behind all the writings. More than thirty people of varied backgrounds and ideas in different times and places wrote these sixty-six books. When you group them up, they link together as if they were written by one individual. Genesis was written about fifteen hundred years before Christ, and Revelation was written ninety-five years after Christ. There is a time span of sixteen hundred years. One talks about the beginning while the other projects the end of the world. Yet whatever begins in Genesis is concluded in Revelation. This amazing feature cannot be explained in human terms. Every word of it has to be written by God through man. God is the motivating One behind the whole composition. There is another remarkable thing about this book. In itself it is a book that gives life. Yet countless numbers of people have lost their lives for its sake. There was a time when anyone who held this book in his hand would immediately be put to death. The most powerful empire in history was the Roman Empire. There was a time when this empire summoned all its forces to destroy this book. Everyone who possessed it would be inhumanly persecuted and later killed or burned. They wiped out thousands of people and burned countless copies of the Bible. They even set up a monument at a place where they killed Christians. On it was the inscription: "Christianity is buried here." They thought that when they had burned all the Bibles and removed all the Christians, they would see Christianity lying there beneath their feet. But it was not long after that when the Bible came back again. Even in a country like England, which has already accepted Christianity as its state religion, you can still find tombs of martyrs for Christ if you visit different places there. Here and there you can find places where the Bible was once burned. Or you may come across a tombstone that tells you that such and such a person tried so hard and wrote so many books in his life to oppose the Bible. One place may tell you that the Bible was once burned there, and another place may tell you that Christians were once killed there. One signpost may point you to a statue of martyrdom, and another may point to a site of Bible burning. Why is it that so many people have tried so hard to oppose this book? Why is it that men would pass by other books, but would either oppose this book with every fiber of their being or would put their whole life to the stake for it? There must be something extraordinary here. Even if you do not believe that this is God's word, you have to admit that there is something unusual about this book. This book seems to be very simple and easy. If you consider it from the historical point of view, it tells the origin of the universe, the earth, the plants, human beings, how they established their kingdoms, and how they will eventually end. This is all. There is nothing special about it. Yet it has been handed from generation to generation for centuries. Today it is still with us. Moreover, if you do not confess that it is truth, you have to conclude that it is false. You can disregard many books, but you cannot ignore this book. Nor will it ignore you. It will not let you go. It demands a verdict from you. It will not pass you by. Another remarkable thing about this book is that almost half of it is prophecy. Among the prophecies, almost half of them are fulfilled. The other half is for the future and await fulfillment. For example, it predicted the fate of the nations of Moab and Ammon and of the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Today when people talk about big cities, they mention London and Shanghai. Then it was Tyre and Sidon. They were two chief cities of the ancient world. The prophecies concerning these two cities were all fulfilled. Once I was in the Middle East. For some reason I did not visit those two places. However, I bought two pictures of those cities. It amazed me when I looked at those pictures. I could not help but believe in the Bible. It was prophesied that if these two metropolitan cities did not repent, they would be destroyed and devastated. Their land would become hills of rocks and pebbles where fishermen would come to dry their nets. In the pictures that I bought, there was nothing but fishing boats and open nets on the shore. This is only one small fact that proves the reliability of biblical prophecy. If you compare past events with the prophecies in the Bible, you will find that they all correspond one with another. For another example, take the birth of Christ. Isaiah prophesied concerning a virgin with child a few hundred years before Christ actually came. Later, He was born indeed of the Virgin Mary. The prophecy was accurately fulfilled. As the prophecies concerning the past have been fulfilled, so the prophecies concerning the future must also be fulfilled. If God desires to communicate with man, He must do so through common human channels of communication. He must use the human language or human writings. In other words, there must be a book in the world that is a direct revelation from God. If such a book does exist, it must contain the four criteria we mentioned. Now we can say that such a book is found. This book tells us that God desires to have fellowship with us. He speaks to us through this book. Through it God is no longer an unknown Being. We can now know Him. This book is the Bible. I hope all of you will read it.
THIS IS SERIOUS: WAS JESUS CRAZY? WAS HE A LUNATIC? OR THE BIGGEST LIAR?
God desires to reveal Himself to us. He does so through means that are comprehensible to man. These are namely written and spoken language. We have seen how God reveals Himself through writing. Now we want to take a look at His revelation through speaking. Suppose that you have had correspondence with a person for many years; however, you have never seen him. Naturally, you would want to know him more by having some direct acquaintance with him. Full understanding of someone cannot be achieved merely through writing. Direct contact gives a better chance. It seems as if communication through speech is of a more intimate and thorough nature than writing. When spoken language is added to written language, communication becomes enhanced. If you take away either of the two, you have a gap. Of course, if you take away both, communication is completely voided. Effective communication is always carried out by these two means. If God's intention is to reveal Himself to us, He must of necessity do so through speaking. But how does God speak? Does He trumpet from the heavens? If so, we would all be frightened to death. We would all run away. No one would dare to listen. There is a chasm between Him and us. He, being so high and great, would drive us away from His holiness. How then does He speak?
THE WINTER ON THE MOUNTAIN
Let me relate to you a story. One winter I was staying on the mountain Lu-shan, recovering from an illness. It was immediately after the war, and there was practically no one living on the mountain. In the vicinity of my dwelling, one could hardly see anyone all day long. I am a quiet person by nature. This kind of environment was very appealing to me. Not only was it quiet there, but the weather was cold as well. From morning till dusk, all I saw was a boy who came three times to deliver my meals. At the beginning I was quite at ease. But after a while, even a person like me began to feel lonely. One day after lunch I went to take a nap. There was a balcony outside my bedroom window. When I woke up I saw some little creatures gathering around the balcony. Bits of my meal had been dropped there, and the birds were busily chirping around them. As they hopped around, they chirped and made many cheerful noises. I said to myself, "All right. Since I cannot find any human beings, I will try to make friends with these little birds."I rose up and went out to greet them. But in an instant they all flew away. An idea came to me. I took some of the leftover rice and began to arrange it in rows, with only a few grains in the first row and gradually increased them towards the entrance of the doorway. I hid behind the door and watched them coming. Soon they gathered around again. I said to me, "This is my chance." I walked out and began to make friends with them. But the minute they saw me, they all scattered. Some perched on the branches of the tree across the balcony and stared at me, as if trying to determine what my intention was. Every time I approached them, they flew away, and every time I walked away, they came back. This went on a number of times. I wanted to preach to the birds. I wanted to tell them, "Little birds, I have no special intention in doing this. This is winter on the mountain, and food is scarce. I have enough food with me, and I just want to share it with you. Please be at peace and come down. I only ask that as you eat, I can sit among you. I want to listen to your songs and watch you playing. Come. Let us be friends..." But the birds would not come. They did not understand me. I had to give up. Later I had a certain realization within. I began to preach to myself. I said, "This body of mine is too big. If I could shrink from five feet eleven inches to the size of a bird, and even change myself into a bird, they would not be alarmed by my presence. I could then tell them my heart's intention, and we could spend the winter on the mountain Lu-shan together."We have a similar problem today. If God remained God, we could never understand Him. If He talked to us in His language, we would be altogether lost. If God wants to reveal Himself through speaking and have fellowship with man, He must shrink Himself to such a degree that He and we are the same. Only then would He be able to speak to us and tell us of Himself and of the mysteries of the universe. Only then would we be able to understand Him. Has God become a man to reveal Himself through His speaking? Let us again use the method of supposition. What if God revealed Himself through the human language? What if He became a man and fellowshipped with man? The implication is tremendous here! It would mean that in this world, among all the human beings throughout history, one person was not merely a man, but God as well! If it is granted that God became a man, there must be a mortal who was also divine. We need to find out about this One. This is a thorny task. But we will employ the effective method we have adopted—namely, setting down a few principles. Then we will search according to these qualifications and directions. We want to base our evaluation on what manner of life a person should possess and what qualifications he must have if he is God.
The first condition that this person must fulfill is that he must claim to be God while he is on earth. He cannot be apologetic about it. He must declare boldly that he is God. Only then can we know who he is. Without this declaration, we have no way to guess his identity. Hence, a declaration is our first qualification.
Second, the way this person came into the world must be different from ours. If I said that I am God and yet was born in the same manner as every other mortal, my words would carry no force. If on the other hand, I dropped down from heaven; my assertion would be taken seriously. The way this person comes into being must be extraordinary. He must come in an absolutely different fashion; otherwise, his words will not carry the necessary weight. Third, this man must bear a moral standard that is far above that of all other human beings. He must have God's holiness, and his life must bear the mark of God's righteousness. For example, if I became a bird and lived in exactly the same way as other birds, without showing them anything extraordinary, I could not convince them that I was actually a man. If God is to become a man, His moral behavior must be of the highest quality. This is the only way that we could identify Him as God. Furthermore, if a person is God, he must necessarily be able to perform things which no mortal can do. If he can achieve what we cannot achieve and know what we do not know, we can say that he is truly God. Lastly, this person must be able to tell us the divine purpose concerning man. What was God's purpose in creating the universe and man? How does He take care of human pains and sorrows? What is the origin and ultimate solution of everything in the universe? What should our attitude towards God be? All these he must reveal to us. Unless this one shows us what we do not see, we cannot say that he has shown us any revelation. We will set down these five conditions and put the whole of humanity to the test. Let us find out if someone meets the five requirements. Such a person would surely be qualified to be God. The first person to put to the test should be yourself. Of course, you are not God, because you have never claimed to be God. Nor have I ever claimed to be. So that rules out you and me. Very well, now we will introduce Confucius. If you read his books, you will find that he did conduct a very moral and proper life. But he never claimed to be God either. Hence, he fails in the first step. What about Sakya Muni, the founder of Buddhism? Not only was there an absence of the claim of divinity, but his philosophy itself is void of deity. He did not believe in the existence of God. Since he had no God, he cannot be God either. Next, go to Mohammed. He believed in God. But he never claimed to be God. He called God Allah and himself the prophet of Allah. If you go through every person in history, you will discover that no one ever claimed to be God except One. That One was Jesus of Nazareth. He claimed to be the living God. No other person put forward such a claim. How can Jesus of Nazareth claim to be God? Before going on, we have to pause for a moment to seriously consider the matter. It is not a light thing to claim to be God. A person who makes such a claim falls into one of three categories. He must belong to one of these three categories; he cannot belong to all three. First, if he claims to be God and yet in fact is not, he has to be a madman or a lunatic. Second, if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie. Third, if he is neither of these, he must be God. You can only choose one of the three possibilities. If you do not believe that he is God, you have to consider him a madman. If you cannot take him for either of the two, you have to take him for a liar. There is no need for us to prove if Jesus of Nazareth is God or not. All we have to do is find out if He is a lunatic or a liar. If He is neither, He must be the Son of God. These are our three choices. There is no fourth. What did Jesus of Nazareth say about Himself? In John 10:30 He said, "I and the Father are one." We need some explanation here. In the Bible the invisible God is called the Father. The Son manifests and expresses the Father. What is hidden is the Father, and what is expressed is the Son. The Son is the One who can be seen and touched. Behind, you have the Father. In front, you have the Son. The two are actually one. They are the two sides of the same reality. When we talk about two, we refer to the fact that one is hidden while the other is revealed. When we talk about one, we say that the revealed One is just the hidden One in manifestation. This is the biblical interpretation of the Father and the Son. Therefore, when Jesus of Nazareth one day said, "I and the Father are one," it was a statement that no one else could make. This man was saying in reality that He and the invisible God are one entity. He is God and God is He. God is the invisible Father, and He is the manifested Son. The Father and the Son are one! Who can this One be that made such a claim? Is He a madman? Is He out to deceive us? After Jesus spoke such a word, what reaction do we see? "The Jews again took up stones that they might stone Him. Jesus answered them, I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these works are you stoning me? The Jews answered Him, We are not stoning You for a good work, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, are making Yourself God" (vv. 31-33). The Jews understood very well that Jesus' words meant that He claimed to be God. After hearing these words they wanted to stone Him to death. A claim was made by Jesus, and an accusation was charged by the Jews, both of which concerned His divinity. Was Jesus insane? Did He speak pure nonsense just to cause people to kill Him? Or was He a swindler setting up some kind of a scheme? If so, what was He trying to gain? Was He trying to gain death? Perhaps we will go back a little bit to the earlier parts in the Gospel of John and see what it says there. John 1:18 says, "No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." Why has no one seen God? It is because God is invisible. Jesus said that He was the only Begotten of the Father; He expressed the invisible Father. When you see the only Begotten, you see the Father. Again He spoke concerning Himself, "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven" (3:13). Have you ever heard anyone say such words? I cannot say, "No one has been to Shanghai, but he who comes from Shanghai to Tientsin, even I, Watchman Nee, who is in Shanghai." If I say so, I would be gibbering nonsense. But Jesus was speaking a heavenly language. He said that He came out of heaven and is still in heaven. What can a person be if he can be in two places simultaneously? Either he is God or he is a lunatic or he is a liar. If you have not yet believed in Christ, please give a verdict to this issue. Who is this man? Let us read John 3:31-32: "He who comes from above is above all; he who is from the earth is of the earth and speaks out of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of this He testifies, and no one receives His testimony." He said that He came out of heaven and was above all. After a while He said the same thing again. Let us see what the purpose behind these words is. He came to preach the things of heaven, but no one received His words. He mentioned words like "heaven," "above all," "out of heaven," etc. What kind of man was He? Confucius never said this. Neither did Sakya Muni or Mohammed. Was Jesus of Nazareth a madman, a liar, or the Son of God? John 5:17 says, "But Jesus answered them, My Father is working until now, and I also am working." He always put Himself in the same place as the Father. Verse 18 says, "Because of this therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath but also called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." When we read His words now, we may consider them to be ordinary remarks. But the Jews knew what He was saying. They knew that He was making Himself equal with God. The words in fact meant that God is His Father and He came to express God. The invisible One is God, and the visible One is He. Therefore, the Jews sought to kill Him. What should we do about such an unusual person? John 6:46 says, "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except Him who is from God, He has seen the Father." Here the word is clearer. He said that no one other than Himself has ever seen God. Only He knew what the Father is like. I can only say with soberness and reverence that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. Read John 8:18. What did He say? "I am one who testifies concerning me, and the Father who sent me testifies concerning me." The question in verse 19 is most interesting: "They said then to Him, Where is Your Father? Jesus answered, You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also." Have you seen what He was saying? They had seen Him, yet did not know Him. Of course they would not know the Father either, whom they had not seen. If men knew Him, they knew God. Who is He then? If knowing Him equals knowing God, is that not the same as saying that He is God and God is He? Read John 8:23: "And He said to them, You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world." The preposition "from" in this verse is ek in Greek. It means "out of." That is how it should be translated. He said, "You are out of this world, but I am not out of this world." This man claimed to be from above; He did not come out of this world. Who can He be? The Jews were confused. They were totally bewildered. Who was this man? The ancestor of the Jews is Abraham. They boasted of being the descendants of Abraham in the same way the Chinese boast of being the offspring of Hwang-ti. The name Abraham was highly venerated among the Jews. Now they brought out Abraham. Please read John 8:53: "Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too. Who are you making yourself? How did Jesus answer them? Was He greater or smaller than Abraham? In verse 56 Jesus said, "Your father Abraham exulted that he would see my day, and he saw it and rejoiced." What is this? Even Abraham had to look forward to Jesus! Hence, verse 57: "The Jews then said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Now please pay your attention to Jesus' answer in verse 58: "Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I am." Tell me who this man is. If I told you that before Hwang-ti was, I, Watchman Nee am there, you would immediately write me off as a lunatic. Some of you would say that I am a liar. The words Jesus spoke made Him a madman, a liar, or God. There can be no fourth alternative. We have to read on. In John 10:37-38 Jesus said, "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, even if you do not believe Me, believe the works so that you may come to know and continue to know..." Know what? The clause following is very crucial. It is a big statement: "...that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father." Who then is this man? He said that He was in God and God was in Him. Passages like the above are numerous in the Bible. I shall mention one more. Read carefully John 14:6-7: "Jesus said to him, I am the way and the reality and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and henceforth you know Him and have seen Him." It says clearly that if you know Jesus of Nazareth, you have known the invisible God. Why is this so? It is because He is God. One of the disciples was confused. John 14:8 says, "Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us." Philip was asking to be shown the Father who had been mentioned again and again by Jesus. Verse 9 says, "Jesus said to him, have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how is it that you say, Show us the Father?" Here Jesus made it very plain that to see Him is to see God. He made no apology about it. He is God. There is no need to see the Father anymore. If you see Him, you see God! Who is Jesus of Nazareth? What would you say? Is He merely the founder of the Christian religion? Is He merely an example of self-sacrifice and humanitarianism? Is He a social reformer? Is He an advocate for universal love, peace, and freedom? Listen to what He said about Himself. He said that He is God. What is your conclusion? Is He a lunatic or a liar? Is He a hoax, or is He God? This is a vital question. Can He be a madman? If you read His biographies in the Gospels and observe His life and manner, you will realize that not only was He sane and sound, He was very sober and firm. If there is a perfectly sound person in this world, He has to be the One. His mind was clear, and His mentality was alert. If you study His deeds and words carefully, you have to confess that His thoughts are very logical and consistent, and His manners are most comely and appropriate. To opposing ones He only needed to reply a few sentences, and their arguments against Him were defeated. He did not have a trace of madness in Him. A madman could never have done what He did. Then is He a liar? A liar always lies for a profit. If there is no profit to be gained, what is the purpose of lying? Why was Jesus crucified? For no other reason than that He claimed to be God. At the last judgment, the hour when His release or crucifixion was to be deliberated, He was examined as to who He was. What was His answer? He said that the Son of Man would be seen sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high, descending on the clouds in glory (Matt. 26:64). Even then He claimed to be God. As a result, He was crucified on the cross. Is there a liar who would sacrifice his life for his lie? Once I met a person who wanted to talk with me about our faith. He read some books about Jesus and admitted that Jesus had a high standard of morality. He could consider Jesus as a perfect man, a model for humanity. But he could not believe that Jesus is God. I said, "If you admit that He has a high standard of morality, then He at least is not a liar. If you agree that He is not a liar, then you have to accept His claim of divinity as truth. He repeatedly asserted that He is God. If you admire His morality, you have to recognize His divinity as well. Jesus of Nazareth is God!"Please read John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Verse 14 says, "And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality." What is the "Word" mentioned in verses 1 and 14? Verse 1 speaks of the relationship the Word has with God.
In reference to when, the Word was there from the beginning.
In reference to where, the Word was with God. In reference to what, the Word was God. Today the Word has become flesh; He has taken on a human body and dwelt among men. As to how He dwells, it says that He is "full of grace and reality," and "we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father." Who is this One? He is Jesus of Nazareth. Here we have only seen one of the five qualifications mentioned earlier. Only Jesus of Nazareth meets this first condition. This proves that He is God. We shall go on to see the four other conditions or qualifications. Jesus of Nazareth must meet all the other four qualifications before we can conclude that He is God.
EXAMINE THE CLAIMS
If God is to be a man, He must come into the world in a way that is very different from all other mortals. We come into the world through our parents and are conceived by our mothers. To ascertain whether Jesus of Nazareth is an ordinary person or the incarnated God, we need to examine His birth. If His birth was no different from ours, we have to conclude that He is nothing but a man. Not only does He have to pass the first qualification, but He needs to pass the second one. Do not hastily believe in a person simply because he claims to be God; we have to test him by our second criterion. If he is indeed God, he must be born in an extraordinary manner. If we study the birth of Jesus, we will find that it was very different from ours. He was born of a virgin. Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament tell us this fact. Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. Before we go on, we have to realize that there are two ways to know God: by natural speculation or by revelation. According to natural speculation, one meditates and conjectures about God. In revelation, God speaks to man. We want to look at the revelation of God. We want to know what God says. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke show us that Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. This important fact enables us to conclude that He is no ordinary person, and it justifies our being a Christian. The natural mentality cannot readily accept this fact. Some years ago, a big debate was conducted in England. On one side were prominent leaders of modernistic schools of theology. On the other side was a famous Presbyterian pastor-theologian. Four major topics were raised. Twice a day, for four consecutive days, each side took turns delivering a long speech for a total of eight messages. One of the topics was related to our subject—the virgin birth. The modernistic theologians asserted that one reason alone was enough to disprove the virgin birth—the event was biologically impossible. According to the law of biology, it is impossible to have the virgin birth. On the same day, their opponent gave the rebuttal. Let me briefly mention a few of his arguments. He said, "Our friends have denied the possibility of such an event on the ground of biological law. I am here to ask whether such an event happened. They asked, 'Can this happen?' They referred you to academic principles. I am asking, 'Has this happened?' I point to a historical occurrence. It is one thing to be academically justified. It is another thing to be historically recorded."As he was speaking, he drew out a newspaper from his pocket. In the paper was an article about an accident that had happened a few days earlier. A man was driving on a winding mountain road. Due to carelessness, the car slid and tumbled down a deep gorge. The car was totally wrecked. Not even a square foot of the vehicle was left untouched. It was thoroughly damaged. But the man on the ground was absolutely unhurt. Later, he rose up and walked away. The theologian read the passage aloud and said, "This car tumbled down a thousand feet into ruin. You cannot even find a square foot of whole metal, and yet the man was unharmed. My friends would ask, 'Could this man live?' But my question is, 'Is this man alive?' He is alive! If you consider the possibility, there is none. But if you consider the fact, there it is!"What we have is a historical fact. If we try to study the virgin birth from a scientific point of view, we may conclude that this is an impossible event. But my question is whether or not such an event occurred. The Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus was born of a virgin. So does the Gospel of Luke. At least you have to say that these records have said such a thing and that such an event was recorded in history. At least you have to believe that there is a historical event. I am not asserting that Matthew and Luke were inspired by the Holy Spirit when they wrote their books. Whether these books were divinely inspired or not, we will set aside for a moment. We are saying that there were a few people who followed Jesus. They wrote His biography. Both Matthew and Luke were contemporaries of Jesus. Matthew followed Him for more than three years. Luke was not as close, but he "carefully investigated all things" (Luke 1:3). I believe that when he wrote his gospel, the mother of Jesus was still alive. What did they say about the birth of Jesus? They all testified that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. His birth was absolutely different from ours. Today, after almost two thousand years, some who never saw Jesus, never talked to Mary His mother, and never met Joseph His father; conclude that He was not born of a virgin. How can you say that He was not born in this manner? Are you ruling out the possibility of such an event and concluding that it did not happen because of some arguments you proposed in your study room or some theories you fashioned in the laboratory? Perhaps we should read the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. There are forty-two generations in the genealogy. Beginning from the first generation, it repeatedly says, "So-and-so begot So-and-so." This phrase is used through verse 15, which says, "And Eliud begot Eleazar, and Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob." Verse 16 continues, "And Jacob begot Joseph." The surprising thing is that the next part of the sentence does not continue with "Joseph begot Jesus." Rather, it says, "Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." When the line reaches Joseph, the pattern is dropped. This is because Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. His way of birth was very different from ours. We have seen that His method of coming into the world was an unusual one. Now we want to look at His way of departing from the world. As we shall see, this was also contrary to our ordinary deaths. No one can ever predict the place, time, and manner he or she is going to die. A hundred years from now, all of us here will be dead. But no one knows how we are going to die. Jesus of Nazareth, however, foresaw His own death. He knew exactly when, where, and how it was to happen. Once when someone told Him that He was going to be killed, He answered that it was not acceptable for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). He knew that He was going to die in Jerusalem. One day, He told His disciples that the hour had come. Not only did He sense the imminence of His death; He told others that His death hour had come. He knew also how He would die. A number of times He mentioned that He would be crucified. This was recorded at least three times in Matthew. Not only was this man different in His way of entering into the world, but His manner of departure was no less extraordinary. Both His birth and His death were very unusual. Is this the Son of God? Let us consider the third qualification. What kind of morality did Jesus of Nazareth have? Was He the same as we are? Did He ever sin? I like the sentence Jesus spoke in John 8. Many were opposing Him at that time. They surrounded and cross-examined Him. In return He asked, "Which of you convicts Me of sin?" (v. 46). This was a tremendous challenge! Which one of us would dare to stand before everyone and challenge to be convicted of sin? Whoever dared do such a thing would be put to shame the minute his wife stood up to testify against him. Perhaps, in less than five minutes, seven or eight people would immediately rise up to expose his lies and unfaithfulness. But when Jesus made such a statement, no one was able to convict Him of sin. There has been a countless number of saints and sages throughout the ages, but none was bold enough to claim to be perfect and sinless. Why is it that Jesus alone dared to make such a claim? All I can say is that this man is either arrogant to the extreme or holy to the uttermost. A proud person may talk in an outlandish manner because he does not know himself; he has no realization of what kind of person he is. But when Jesus challenged, "Which of you convicts Me," there was no way He could be humble or polite about it. He is without sin, and He is holy to the uttermost. Jesus of Nazareth is not like Confucius, who said that given some more time, he would be rid of big, moral flaws. Jesus is sinless. When He made such a statement, He made it before His enemies. If there had been a slight misconduct on His part, the Jews would have caught it right away. The Jews are not prolific writers; they have not produced many books other than the Holy Scripture. But after Jesus, many books were written by the Jews to contradict Him. All these books deny His divinity, but none touch His morality. Of all the opposing writings, none can prove that Jesus ever sinned. Every philosopher or founder of religion, at one time or another, has said, "I repent," or "I regret such and such a matter. I will do better from now on." But Jesus of Nazareth never repented. A sinner must of necessity repent. But what does a sinless man have to repent of? Jesus never apologized to anyone; He never did anyone any wrong. When I was in England, some British friends asked for my opinion concerning their people. I said, "Among you, once ever so often, I hear, 'Excuse me' and 'I beg your pardon.'" To the English, anyone who does not know how to make these two remarks has to be an extremely base person, for he knows not his own mistakes. Anyone can make a mistake, but when one refuses to admit his mistakes, he makes himself vulgar. For this reason we have to say, "Excuse me" and "I beg your pardon" all the time. The amazing thing is that Jesus of Nazareth never said "sorry" to anyone. He never apologized. Could He be so evil as to ignore His conscience completely? Was He oblivious to His own errors? Or is He really sinless? If so, He cannot say, "sorry." It is not a matter of humility or politeness to Him, but a matter of maintaining His standing. I love the story about Jesus once walking down a road. Many people were gathered around Him, hoping to see the resurrection of a dead person. It was so crowded that the people pressed upon each other. One woman, who suffered from an issue of blood for years, thought that Jesus would surely be able to heal her since He had performed all kinds of miracles. She did not come to the Lord directly. All that she did was touch the fringe of His garment, and the sickness was immediately healed (Mark 5:25-29).Jesus felt something, turned around, and asked, "Who touched Me?" How did the disciples respond? They said, "You see the crowd pressing upon You and You say, Who touched Me?" (v. 31). He should have asked, "Who pressed Me?" instead of "Who touched Me?" If I were Jesus, I would have said in a gentlemanly fashion, "Excuse me." But Jesus did not need to say that. When He said that it was a touch, He meant that it was a touch and not a pressing against. The disciples only knew that many thronged around Him. But He knew that someone "touched" Him. He knew what He was doing. There was no need for apology. He knows no sin because He is without sin. Let me mention another story about Jesus. One day He came to the synagogue in His hometown. Someone handed Him the Scripture, and He started to read from a passage about Himself. The people there, however, despised Him. He remarked that a prophet is always despised in His own place. For this reason, God would not choose them but would rather go to someone else. After they heard this, they were very indignant. They carried Him outside and tried to throw Him down a cliff. I like very much what Jesus did then. He passed through their midst (Luke 4:16-30). If someone tried to push us over a cliff, we would struggle to escape. But He was no ordinary person. He simply passed through the persecutors' midst. They could do nothing except let Him pass by! He is without sin. Again, you see the same Jesus preaching to a ruler at midnight in a house (John 3:2), while choosing to converse with a woman beside a well at midday (4:5-7). Everything He did was very proper. No one can say anything against Him. You cannot find fault in Him. Another time some opposers came to tempt Him. They asked whether or not it was lawful to pay tax to Caesar. The Jewish nation, as you know, no longer existed then, and Caesar of Rome was their king. If Jesus said "no" to the question, He would have been involved in a political issue, and the opposers would have had an excuse to condemn Him. If He said "yes," all the Jews would have counted Him as siding with the Romans and hated Him. The result, of course, would have favored the opposers. This was a question that could not be answered "yes" or "no."How did Jesus reply? He said, "Show Me the coin for the tribute" (Matt. 22:19). He was wise. He even had the opposing ones draw out the money from their own pockets. Then He asked, "Whose is this image and inscription?" (v. 20). They had to admit that it was Caesar's. Jesus gave an excellent reply: "Render then the things that are Caesar's to Caesar and the things that are God's to God" (v. 21). With that He dismissed the whole case. This is where His majesty lies. He never made a mistake. You cannot get a case out of Him. I cannot enumerate all His deeds. Everything He did bears such a mark of nobility that there is absolutely no flaw in His behavior. I will briefly mention His betrayal as a final example. It was very late in the night, and men armed with torches, spears, and swords came to arrest this empty-handed Jesus. He asked them, "Whom do you seek?" They said, "Jesus the Nazarene" (John 18:7). He replied, "I told you that I am" (v. 8). At that very word, the band of rogues whose minds were set on capturing Him fell back to the ground. If Jesus had not voluntarily given Himself over to them, they would never have been able to seize Him. Such calmness and majesty can only be seen in Him! As to the traitor, Jesus knew from the first day of his intention. Yet He allowed the same to follow Him and even let him be the keeper of the money. All the time Jesus knew that money was being stolen by him. Who can demonstrate such forbearance and uprightness? Here is a man who is absolutely different from all others. In every respect, He has been proven to be the Son of God. The fourth qualification we mentioned is that one who claims to be God incarnated must be able to perform what an ordinary person cannot. Has Jesus of Nazareth performed any supernatural acts? We are not His contemporaries; it was almost two thousand years ago that He walked on earth. Naturally, we cannot be His witnesses. But one thing is sure: the apostles who followed Jesus recorded, preached, and testified the things concerning Him. The four Gospels were all completed within thirty years after His departure. Most of the Jews who were then alive had seen Jesus. If the apostles' records were false, they would have been repudiated long ago. However, the Jews only argued that Jesus is not the Son of God. They never denied His deeds, for the deeds were all facts. Today, when we read the four Gospels, we have no apprehension about their authenticity. If there had been a slight error when they were written, there would have been grave problems because many of the contemporaries had actually seen and heard Jesus. There was no chance for any fabrication. Hence, these books cannot be a hoax. If the Jews could not attack these books, there is even less of a basis for an attack today. Let us examine some of the deeds of Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew 11:2 and 3 say, "Now when John heard in the prison of the works of the Christ, he sent word through his disciples and said to Him, Are You the Coming One, or should we expect another?" John wanted to make sure that Jesus was the Christ sent from God. If He was not, John would wait for another. Verses 4 and 5 say, "And Jesus answered and said to them, Go, report to John the things that you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; and the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel announced to them." Jesus answered neither "yes" nor "no." He only asked the messenger to tell John of the things heard and seen. He wanted John to think about them and decide for himself if Jesus was the Christ. Jesus proved His divinity by the miracles He performed. Here is a man who accomplished things that are impossible for human beings. You cannot help but confess that He is God. John 7:31 says, "But many out of the crowd believed into Him and said, Will the Christ, when He comes, do more signs than this man has done?" Many people testified that He performed all kinds of miracles which no man could do. John 10:24 says, "The Jews therefore surrounded Him and said to Him, How long will you hold our soul in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." On the one hand, the Jews hardened their hearts and refused to acknowledge His divinity, and on the other hand, they were puzzled by the many supernatural miracles that He performed. They gathered around Him and pressed for an answer. There is one thing in which Jesus never gave in: His claim to divinity. He performed what mortals could not. These acts testify to His divinity. He told the people clearly, "The works which I do in My Father's name, these testify concerning Me" (v. 25). On the one hand, He made His claim, and on the other hand, He performed miracles to justify His claim. In John 14:11 He said to His disciples, "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me." This is the same as saying that He is the invisible Father. "But if not, believe because of the works themselves." If He had not done anything impossible, this word would have had no value at all. If He had not performed any extraordinary acts, they would have asked back, "What works have you done? We do not know what you are talking about." But the disciples knew of the acts He did. All these acts prove that He is the Son of God. We have to check Jesus of Nazareth against a fifth qualification. If He is God, He has to show us what He is. Is He kind, or is He severe? Is He gentle, or is He fierce? What kind of a God do we have? As a matter of fact, Jesus did show us what God is. This is a most wonderful thing. The eternal, invisible God is now seen by us. There is no need to conjure up an untouchable and far transcendent God or imagine what He is like; He has revealed Himself to us. He has dwelt in our midst and walked among us. Jesus of Nazareth is the very God dwelling among and with man. He has manifested God's nature and attributes to us. There is no need to search for God anymore because He has revealed Himself. Our mentality is too limited. Our hands are too short, and our viewpoint too narrow. If we were left to ourselves to study and search for God, we could only conclude that He is the unknown One. Now we know that God desires to reveal Himself. In fact, He has revealed Himself to us already. We have said that the two means whereby God communicates with us are the written and spoken language. For this reason, the Bible and Jesus of Nazareth are the two indispensable factors in our faith. When you take away either one, God becomes the gravest problem in the world. Hebrews 1:1 says, "God, having spoken of old in many portions and in many ways to the fathers in the prophets." These speaking constitute the Bible. "Has at the last of these days spoken to us in the Son" (v. 2). This is Jesus of Nazareth. Whoever is in Christ now may know Him. To have heard the words of Jesus of Nazareth is to have heard the words of God. Dear reader, what is your attitude towards Jesus of Nazareth? Thomas confessed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Peter proclaimed, "You are...the Son of the living God!" (Matt. 16:16). Martha said, "I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God" (John 11:27). Even a Roman centurion exclaimed at the sight of Jesus hanging on the cross, "Truly this was the Son of God" (Matt. 27:54b). I hope you will make the same confession
WHO IS HE?
Our Christian faith is based upon the revelation
of God. It is different from all other religions which are attained through meditation, conjecture, and searching. We believe that the Bible is God's revelation to us. In other words, it is His spoken word to us. We also believe that God has become a man, who is the very Jesus of Nazareth. God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ constitute the basis of our faith. Let us begin by looking at the position that Christ occupies in our faith, or we may say, in Christianity. However, Christianity has been altered and is not what it ought to be. At the present we will not mention what Christianity ought to be. Rather, we will only draw a comparison between Christianity and other religions in order to see the distinctiveness of our faith. We will not try purposely to exalt Christianity and debase other religions. We will only draw an objective comparison between them. First, let us consider Confucianism. Actually, followers of Confucius never formally assert that theirs is a religion. Confucianism merely exercises great influence on Chinese culture, education, ethics, and philosophy. One thing, however, is certain: the teachings and doctrines of Confucius are of foremost importance, while the person Confucius is not as crucial. I do not mean that Confucianism has no concern for Confucius. The man indeed was an extraordinary person. However, in order to be a part of Confucianism, one only need to understand the doctrines of Confucius, abide by his teachings, and be thoroughly acquainted with his books. It does not matter whether one understands the man Confucius or not. The principles, doctrines, and teachings of Confucius are the essence of the religion. Next let us consider Buddhism. The founder of Buddhism was Sakya Muni. Once he preached to his disciples about evil persons being reincarnated through the Wheel of Rebirth after death. This is something that attracts man's attention. But in all of Buddhism, the point of emphasis is doctrines and theories. Concerning the man Sakya Muni, although he has a history and biography, they are something parenthetical. They do not form the crux of Buddhism. The center of the religion is not the man Sakya Muni. Whether there was such a person is unimportant to today's Buddhism. All that is needed are the doctrines and teachings. Other religions such as Taoism and Mohammedanism are all of the sam


 

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