The Bible has always been at the heart of the Christian religion. It does not matter which Church, denomination, or sect you may investigate, the Bible will be in a prominent position. It does so in the Catholic Church, in the Orthodox Churches, in the Church of England, Methodist, Baptist, Brethren, Jehovah’s Witness, and many others besides.
In times of national mourning, in the great cathedrals of the land, eminent persons, who from all other indications would not seem to have much time for religion, will consider it an honour to participate in the service by reading a passage from the Bible, even today. At one time none doubted that it was the book of God, and it was referred to as the Holy bible, or the Holy Scriptures. Indeed when the monarch of Great Britain was crowned in 1953 a copy of the Bible was presented to her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with the words, “This is the Royal Law, these are the Holy Oracles of God, the greatest treasure this world affords.”
Strange it is then, that although the Bible remains the most published and widely circulated book of all time, today it is largely unread and among the rising generation unknown. Indeed as some have experienced, if you let it be known that you intend to read the Bible through you may be considered rather peculiar, and if you dare suggest that you should live by the Bible you might find that some will regard you as completely mad and suffering from religious mania.
One human cell: our bodies are made of millions of these.
But what if the rejecters of the existence of God are wrong? What if the existence of God cannot be determined by the scientific instruments currently available to man? What if God exists outside the dimensions in which mankind is confined? And if mankind did not evolve, how is can he be accounted for?
It was not until the 1970’s that Desktop Computers began to be manufactured on an industrial scale, to day most people possess or have access to a computer. There are many varieties spanning from the laptop and mobile phones to the supercomputers of the laboratories. These machines did not evolve from lesser machines, they did not construct themselves, true they developed over time but only as a result of applied intelligence. Literally millions of hours of applied concentrated thought from the best brains available were employed in the development of the computer and the programs they required to operate. Nevertheless this machine cannot begin to be compared with the construction, the complexity or the multifunctional abilities of the human brain.
Why should it be thought that what has been described as the most complex arrangement of matter known to man in the universe should have arisen by chance when it has taken millions of man hours to devise and build a comparatively simple electronic machine? Surely such infinite complexity must lead to the conclusion of the existence of a Super Intelligence, a prime first cause, a source of all power, whom we may call God.
Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope built in Cheshire, England in 1957. It is 76 metres in diameter, scanning the universe for 83 years
Now we see the point, if it is in the nature of intelligent beings to communicate and go to such great lengths to do so, why should it be thought incredible that a Super-intelligence, the Creator, should desire to communicate with his intelligent creations, especially since by design He made them with such excellent receptive abilities? Surely reason demands that there should be such a communication One human cell. Our bodies are made of millions of these. Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope built in Cheshire, England in 1957. It is 76 metres in diameter, scanning the universe for 83 years with humanity, the possessors of the unique capacity of intelligence in the observable universe.
Moreover, surely it is reasonable to expect that such a communication should exist in a mode that is readily accessible, intelligible, transmittable, translatable and preservable so as to meet the needs of all mankind. What better then, than to receive such information in the form of a book? Books have influenced mankind more than any other single factor throughout history. Even in today’s technological age, people are still writing books in order to influence and inform people of their authors concerns. Why then should it be considered so incredible a thing as a book containing information from God?
The fact is that the Bible does claim to be such a revelation from God adapted for the truest needs of the Human race. A book which contains some of the oldest writings in the world, containing an unbroken line of history from the origin of humankind and which conveys it to the ultimate destiny that God has reserved for those of the human race have who put their trust in Him.
The uniform teaching of the Bible is remarkable. Notwithstanding its sixty-six component books, the divers human instruments employed in its compilation, its extended period of production over 1600 years, it presents a uniformity of teaching concerning the Divine purpose, summed up in in the inspired declaration, “As truly as I live says the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with my glory”
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
However, the Bible remains the world’s best-selling book even though it is little understood. The situation today is very similar to that in the time of Judah’s failing monarchy as recorded by the prophet Isaiah when he says, “For the LORD has poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers he has covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Please read this: and he says, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this please: and he says, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, ‘Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this Karl Marx an atheist Jew and author of Das Kapital a thesis on COMMUNISM people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid’”. (Isa 29:10-14)
Reading the Bible is one thing but understanding it is entirely another and one of the greatest difficulties relates to the publishing of the New Testament by itself. This is because the New Testament derives from the substance of the Old Testament, not only in terms of history but also in relation to its teaching. For example the apostle Peter in his first letter states “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first letter, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2Pe 1:19-21) It is a more sure word of prophecy because things predicted by the prophets in the Old Testament are confirmed by events in which the apostles were personally involved, they were witnesses to the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah, rendered in the New Testament as the Christ or the anointed one. They witnessed his miracles, his teaching, his suffering, the manner of his death, his resurrection, and his ascension into heaven.
A lamp to my feet and a light to my path
Peter likens the heart to a ‘dark place’ (auchmeros in Greek) dark, filthy. It is the natural state of the human mind. “The heart” says the prophet Jeremiah, “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”. And that is why as the Lord Jesus says, “men love darkness rather than light.” (John 3:19)
The apostle Paul explains how the essential message of the Bible is to be found in what is described as the Gospel, which signifies “Good News” or “Glad Tidings.” Paul also shows how the knowledge of this “Good News” is the enlightener. In his letter to the Romans 1:16, Paul describes the Gospel as being the Power of God unto Salvation. That being accepted, what is the essence of the Gospel and how does it work?
When the Lord Jesus Christ began his ministry, we are informed how he went about the cities and villages of Judæa and Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. This good news of the kingdom did not originate with Jesus Christ nor his apostles. In fact it is the underlying theme of the Old Testament as emphasised by Paul in his letters to the Galatians, to the Hebrews and to the Romans. “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In you shall all nations be blessed.” (Gal 3:8 KJV) “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them (context= the Israelites who came out of Egypt) but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb. 4:2)
Writing to the Romans Paul observes how the Israelites in the past did not all obey the gospel and quotes Isaiah, saying, “Rom 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias says, Lord, who hath believed our report?” The gospel itself is a series of proclamations of God’s future intentions with mankind upon the earth, and it is based upon Covenant promises made by God, which are recorded in the Old Testament, beginning in Eden, when God first announced the way in which he would deal with the transgression of his Holy Law. God gave similar information to Noah concerning the continuation of the earth. He also established a covenant with Abraham and his seed saying, “I will give you, and to your seed after you, the land wherein you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, You shalt keep my covenant therefore, you, and your seed after you in their generations”. (Gen 17:8-9) Further God declared “I have sworn by myself, said the LORD, for because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice”. (Gen 22:16-18)
These promises given to Abraham were conferred upon his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob and later they were enlarged as to the constitution to include those who were eligible to partake of that inheritance. This included not only the seed of Abraham but also the fact that God envisaged the inheritance itself as being established within a monarchy. This becomes evident in the promises made to David who was appointed King over the nation of Israel, Abraham’s national posterity, and ruler over all the territory that had been covenanted by God. King David received promises from God of a similar nature to that given to Abraham “And when your days be fulfilled, and you shalt sleep with you fathers, I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and your kingdom shall be established for ever before you: your throne shall be established for ever”. (2Sa 7:12-16) this promise is endorsed in the Psalm 89:34-37 where God says, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah”.
Now consider the opening words of the New Testament and you will find how important it is to understand God’s promises to Abraham and David. Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. So you will find that the Old Testament and the new Testament stand together,and you will learn that the gospel or glad tidings consists of the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ. That these “things” are the facts related in the writings of the prophets and apostles concerning the Kingdom of God which may be summarised as follows That God will set up a Kingdom on earth which will overthrow all other systems of human government and change them into the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. That for this purpose, God will send Jesus Christ personally to the earth at the close of the times of Gentiles, represented in the book of Revelation by the symbolism of the sixth vial, and identified by the political restoration of the nation of Israel in their ancient homeland. That at his second appearing, Jesus Christ will establish the Kingdom of God by restoring the Kingdom to Israel, and subsequently extending his dominion over all nations of the earth. This will involve the abolition of all existing sinful political and religious institutions. That the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel will involve the entire re-gathering of God’s chosen but scattered nation, the Jews; their reinstatement in the land of their fathers, the territory they formerly occupied, having been reclaimed from the “desolation of many generations”; namely all the land of Canaan, promised to Abraham and his seed, who is the Christ, by covenant for an everlasting possession.
That in addition to His covenant with Abraham, God made a covenant with David, ordered in all things and sure, promising that his seed, an illustrious descendant (also being the Son of the Eternal Father), should sit on David’s throne; that he should be slain and should rise again; that of his Kingdom there should be no end; that he would reign over the house of Jacob for ever, in the presence of David himself. That these covenants concerning the land and the throne, are styled by Paul the Covenants of Promise, which having been confirmed by the blood of Christ in his death and resurrection, comprise the New Covenant. These contain the things concerning the Kingdom as explained by Christ and the apostles, which must be believed as part of the faith which justifies. That the throne of David is again to become the throne of Yahweh in the hands of Jesus the King, to be located in Jerusalem which to this end will be rebuilt and become the Capital City and Seat of Central World Government. That the governing body of the Kingdom so established, will be the children of God, Jews and Gentiles of all generations developed by resurrection and change and comprising, with Christ as their federal head, the collective seed of Abraham in whom all nations will be blessed. As we have shown the prophet Daniel in the second chapter of his book, informed Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the mighty Babylonian Empire, that the intention of the God of Heaven is to set up a kingdom, which would never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all existing kingdoms, and that shall stand for ever. (Dan 2:44) All the existing rulers and governments would be abolished and in its place a universal Kingdom would be set up, which would not be left to other people, for the simple reason that the saints of the most High, will inherit the kingdom and they shall reign for ever.
Now the great barrier, that prevents anyone from possessing anything for ever, is of course death. The greatest obstacle for men and women realising this, is the fact that a majority of mankind believe that at death, people automatically receive another form of existence. It is a fundamental teaching of the churches, of Islam, and of Judaism, but the astounding fact is that, THERE IS NO DOCTRINE OF NATURAL IMMORTALITY IN THE BIBLE. Death in the Bible is portrayed as the great enemy of mankind because it is THE COMPLETE CESSATION OF LIFE AS THE DIVINE PENALTY FOR SIN. The great advocate of Christianity to the Gentiles, the apostle Paul himself teaches, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Far from spending eternity in perfect bliss in heaven ‘above the bright blue sky’ the Bible teaches that when a man and women die, they go into the grave and their thoughts perish together with their love or hatred and knowledge, (Psalm 146:4) To inherit an everlasting Kingdom it is clear that death must be taken out of the way and again the Bible teaches that it is God’s intention to destroy death for those who believe in His promises. This was made evident in the sacrificial rituals given to Israel by Moses.
The High Priest
sprinkles the blood on
the Mercy Seat
Dressed in clothes of glory and beauty
All men and women come under condemnation on their own account because of transgression of God’s law whether they know it or not, that is why they all die. But Jesus Christ was unique in that while he was of the same nature as all mankind (Heb. 2:14) he lived a life of complete obedience to the law of God his heavenly Father. No one could accuse him of sin. If he had committed sin he would have been no different to anyone else. But he did no sin, even though he had a nature which gave rise to sin. Consequently when he submitted to the death on the cross he honoured God his Father because it was a public declaration that God was just and right, to condemn the nature which give rise to sin. Thus Jesus died in obedience while all others die because of disobedience. Jesus honoured God in His death while in contrast the human race by their disgraceful behaviour continually dishonour their Maker. The Lord Jesus Christ is unique, the only member of the human race who was a perfectly innocent and obedient character before God. Because of this God did not leave his son’s body in the grave to decay into corruption but God raised him from the dead, repairing his wounded body and bestowed upon him the gift of eternal life. In this way Christ Jesus triumphed over sin, over death and the grave and through his victory, God made it possible for everyone who believes in this astounding redemptive act to receive the forgiveness of sins and themselves to experience resurrection from the dead when Christ returns to establish his Kingdom over all the earth.
This brief outline of the hope, presents what is described in the New Testament as “The things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ”. This is the knowledge of God’s purpose and plan. Men or women ignorant of these things are in darkness and are without hope. So mankind is left with a choice, to continue in life for an average of seventy years, remembering, “in the sweat of thy face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground; for out of it you were taken: for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:19) Or you can submit yourself to the converting power of the light of God’s word that can inform you about the Kingdom God and those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ. (Act 28:31) This is the substance of the inspired Word of God.
Derek Hilsden | 31st January 2021