Who are You the Light For?

You know how when you drive down the road at night, sometimes you’ll see this really bright light off to the side somewhere that captures your attention? At least for me, if I’m driving at night and some bright light is lit up somewhere, I can’t help but notice it. Typically, it’s some advertisement or maybe a sign for a store to signify its placement; regardless, it’s a good marketing strategy because it gets my attention. By getting my attention, the owner of the sign has now told me that such-and-such goodies are to be bought or found at such-and-such location. Without this really bright light, the function of the sign would be so much less effective, and would be less likely of showing me where I can find the goods of the organization.  So it’s really a great idea by the owners of these stores or services to have a sign with such a bright light.

This tangible example really helps us understand what Jesus meant when he said, You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mat. 5:14-16 NKJV) Jesus wanted us to be like this bright sign that pointed out the location of an organization or where to buy some goods or services. Jesus wants us to shine brightly to those around us; a light that advertises with full functionality that God is to be found in such-and-such place (the Gospel) and provides such-and-such goodies (freedom, life, joy, comfort, peace, love, and salvation to name a few). He explains that we shine brightly to those around us because they see our good works. So in order to be the effective bright light, we need to actively portray the good works Christ has called us to have. Therefore, we should be actively pursuing righteousness in all that we do in order to be the light that points others to Christ.

After concluding the above, I began to ponder on this passage as it relates in my own life. I began to think about this idea of being a light, and I realized that I am almost always a light. I shine bright, I often distract by my brightness, and people really notice me at times. I am the light that is not hidden. I am the light that is on the lamp-stand. I am the really bright sign on the side of the road that catches your eye. However, I have found that I am often the light causing people to see my good works and glorify Dustin Gaskins who is on earth. This is where I fall short so often (not to mention when I do things incorrectly), and I know many others have as well. I can shine so brightly and let everyone see the things I do, but I do it often the wrong way and even more often for the wrong reason. I have found that I am the light for myself, when I ought to be a light for Jesus and for God’s glory, not my own.

A phrase that I’ve seen popping up in places is that we should do good for goodness sake. As I’ve come to know God and to know His will, I can confidently say that God wants that. God wants us to do good for goodness sake. We shouldn’t do good for the sake of ourselves, but we should do good to the glory of God who is the essence of goodness. The real struggle though is the battle with doing good things and then breaking your arm off patting yourself on the back. The real struggle is to not do good for the sake of being seen doing good. There is a real struggle to do good for goodness sake rather than for your own sake. However, in applying Jesus’ teachings and seeking to live the life of Christ, we must cease to be a light for ourselves, and become a light for God and the goodness that He is. Otherwise, we have made the Gospel about us, when it is really about Jesus and how He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one goes to the Father except through him (Jn. 14:6).

So in your own life you need to consider the question at hand: who are you the light for? Are you constantly shining like that sign, getting people’s attention for yourself, or are you that bright light capturing the attention of others, pointing them in the direction of Christ? We have been called to be the light through our actions, and we need to ensure that our intentions behind our good actions are not to be the light for ourselves, but to be the light for God so that all glory is given to Him.

(For more verses to encourage who you intend to be the light for is God, consider the following: Ephesians 2:10; Mt. 6:1-7; Colossians 3:17; 1Corinthians 10:31)

Christianity and Human Sacrifice (Are they Relatable?)

A comment that can often be heard among those without the Christian faith is an unfavorable comment on the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of many. In particular, a negative perspective that can be found is one that points to Christianity as a religion of human sacrifice. One such person that makes a comment like this one is Dr. Sam Harris who said that “Christianity is actually a cult of human sacrifice.” Never mind the use of an emotionally charged word like “cult”, let’s think about the truth value of the claim that Christianity is about human sacrifice. In my estimation, the claim is made for two reasons. The first reason is to degrade Christianity as a faith without the central tenet of love it promotes, and the second reason is to make Christianity look like other religions that are often viewed as very primitive due to reasons such as human sacrifice. These two reasons explain why the rationalization seems so aggressive, but I suppose there is a third possible reason without such negative intentions: the person actually thinks Christianity is founded in human sacrifice and is simply expressing their opinion. Regardless of the combination of the three reasons found above, I’d like to look at how the third reason is incorrect, and thus the preceding two are incorrect.

When I first heard this I thought it was a very realistic problem for Christianity. It actually left me wondering. At first, I explained it away by saying that Christianity was actually the religion that ended much sacrifice. This is true I think. Beforehand, the Jews sacrificed animals every day, and now there was no need for them to do so because Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient. Also, there were a lot of other religions requiring sacrifice that were called to believe in Christ, and thus all the converted people would cease to sacrifice. In essence, there was now a religion for all people that required no sacrifice because there was one sacrifice that was good enough; thus, less sacrificing was made. This seemed like a good answer to the problem; however, it wasn’t. It didn’t answer the problem of Jesus being a human sacrifice; it just showed that the end result was desirable. Thus, the uneasy feeling prolonged: until now.

The faith that Jesus Christ lived on this earth, suffered, died, and resurrected seems at first glance to be about a human being sacrificed, but it is truly not so. Moreover, the reason why it is not so is profound and pregnant with implications and answers. The reason why is (to my surprise) actually quite simple: Christianity is not a faith about human sacrifice, it is a faith about God sacrifice. The problem of human sacrifice arises when you read the story of Jesus through the lens that Jesus was merely a man. However, Jesus was not merely a man. Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1-14). We read John 3:16 and think about Jesus as the Son of God, causing us to think of Jesus as merely a man, but the Son of God is Himself God in the flesh! Thus, the suffering and death of Jesus is not characteristic of human sacrifice, but God sacrifice. Thus, the third reason is wrong: Christianity is founded in God sacrifice—not human sacrifice.

Therefore, we can see clearly how the central tenet of love in Christianity is not degraded but empowered. This is so, because we can clearly see the love that God offers in that He did not ask for a human to be sacrificed, but offered a piece of Himself to be sacrificed. Consider Philippians 2:5-8 in which it is found that Jesus did not consider equality with God a think he lacked, and regardless of his status as a deity, took on the form of a man (a servant!), and took on the death of the cross. So Jesus in the form of God sacrificed Himself by becoming a man on earth rather than God in heaven, sacrificed Himself by being a servant rather than a king, and sacrificed Himself by allowing the humans he created (John 1:1-14) to kill Him. Moreover, Jesus sacrificed Himself by allowing our evil deeds to be placed on Him, removing Him from the presence of God completely (Mark 15:34). Does this sound like the sacrifice of a human to please God to you? Not to me. To me this sounds like the loving sacrifice of God to please Himself and us (1John 4:9-18). Moreover, this sounds like a display of the central tenet of Christianity: love.

And alas we can see that the sacrifice of Jesus does not make Christianity appear to be like other primitive religions, but actually causes it to stand apart. It stands apart as a religion that does not have human sacrifice, but has God sacrifice. It stands apart as a religion that does not just tell us to love, but shows us how to love. It stands apart as a religion in which the God does not merely say He loves us, but shows us that He loves us. Thus, Dr. Sam Harris, I reject your notion that Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice. Instead, I submit that Christianity is a religion of love (1Timothy 1:5; James 1:27).

The Crippling Effect of Philippians 4:13

One of the most well known verses throughout America is Phil. 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” From teenagers’ bios on Twitter to a flowery picture on Instagram, this verse is posted relentlessly. However, the frequent use of this verse may have caused it to lose its original intent, and can point to a flaw seen throughout Christians of every age: ego-centrism.

 

The use most common form you will see this verse take is to back up the claim that one can ace any test, become a famous rapper, become an astronaut, and/or etc. Now, I’m not claiming that you shouldn’t pursue your dreams, and that you can’t accomplish your goals. You can ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you that I thoroughly believe that anyone can do nearly anything given enough hard work, patience, and well-placed stubbornness. However, this doesn’t appear to be the original intent of this verse, and using it this way creates ego-centrism. The flaw of using this verse inappropriately creates a focus on the physical, and the character flaw that comes with it (which is seen throughout America) is a focus on what the world offers you rather than what you can offer the world. When putting Phil. 4:13 in context and observing who the author is, you begin to get a different picture than the portrayal that you can be very successful (in a physical sense).

 

Php 4:9-17 ESV  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  (10)  I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.  (11)  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  (12)  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  (13)  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  (14)  Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.  (15)  And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.  (16)  Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.  (17)  Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

 

Being Content with Nothing

In Paul’s message to the Philippians here, Paul is speaking of his ministry as it pertained to possessions. Paul says that he didn’t wish for payment for any reason other than seeing others be fruitful. What does that mean? He didn’t care about his own prosperity; he cared about the Church there having spiritual prosperity. And in the midst of this exposition is where we find the verse in question, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And what does Paul mean here when he says that? Paul says that he has learned that no matter what is going on, no matter how much money he has (or doesn’t have), and no matter how (un)successful he has been physically; he is going to be content. Why is he going to be content even when he has nothing? Because he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. Paul declares here that Christ’s strength doesn’t give him the ability to gain the world, to be prosperous, to be the greatest mind of the time, or anything like that. Paul declares that Christ’s strength gives him the ability to be content when he has nothing in the world. See the contrast of what Paul is saying to how the modern world uses this verse today?

 

Success with no Stress

I believe that this verse can be used to feel confident in shooting for the stars in this world; however, I believe that the mindset one must take on is quite different than what you normally find. I believe that in order to use this verse correctly, your mindset cannot be fixated on the fact that you can succeed in whatever you do because of Christ’s strength in you; instead, your mindset should be grounded in the fact that even when failure comes, you will remain content because of Christ’s strength. This thought can empower you by helping you keep stress from impeding your success. The context indicates that Paul relied on Christ’s strength, through a focus on God’s work not his own. Therefore, when failure knocks on your door, you can have strength through Christ by having a focus set upon Christ and his work rather than your own self and your own goals.

 

Focus on Others

We should never take God’s strength and hide it away for ourselves and our own pursuits; we should always use God’s strength to focus on bettering those around us. Paul was not seeking his own pursuits, but God’s and the betterment of the people. Therefore, to apply Phil. 4:13 correctly, our focus should be on helping those around us succeed rather than only ourselves.

 

Focus on the Spiritual Battles

God’s strength is there to help you when you’re weak: when you don’t have any possessions, when you’ve lost all that you have, when your goals seem unreachable, and when temptation is knocking on the door. The latter of those options is perhaps the most important and the one that is the most liberating in terms of what God’s strength can do for you. God’s strength is there and is more than enough to push you through temptations, and what a wonderful thing that is.

 

So what about Phil. 4:13? How exactly should we use that verse? As you have hopefully seen, the concept of Christ’s strength goes beyond worldly success and applies to several different areas in life. We should use this strength to focus on God and not ourselves, focus on helping the world and not ourselves, and to focus on winning the spiritual battles that come your way. In short, we should use our strength in Christ to be like Christ.

Evidence for Faith

What if someone came up to you and told you that there was a dragon in his or her garage? That’d be a pretty crazy thing, and if you were told that, you would most certainly wish to see it in order to validate this assertion. However, when you inquire upon the dragon’s existence by looking into the person’s garage, you don’t find the dragon. You then decide said person was lying, delusional, or just wrong for some other reason. After telling the person your conclusion, the person tells you that you can’t see it, the dragon is invisible… Oh great, you’ve run across a nut job. There is no way in this world that there is an invisible dragon inside this person’s garage, it being invisible is just a cop-out. There is no way you would believe this person.

Carl Sagan gives an argument for the burden of proof on Christianity and theistic belief using this analogy. The analogy is a chapter in his book The Demon Haunted World, and one can find it here. However, I believe he missed congruency to Christianity’s claims for faith. I think it would have gone further. Something like this…

After telling said person you are still skeptical, said person goes and grabs a book. The book is old and talks about the dragon throughout its entirety, describing it as an invisible dragon that lives in people’s shelters. You still don’t believe that person, but you do find it very strange that someone would believe in an invisible dragon because of some old book. You explain that you’re still not buying it, and decide to leave. But he has more.

The guy goes on to tell you how this book was written not by one person, but 40. The book was composed over the course of 16 centuries by people that all lived in one nation, but were not writers for a job. Not only that, but the book so impressively tells a story about how this dragon both helped and destroyed these people over and over again… This guy is still a wacko.

The guy tells you that there are documents that prove that at least parts of this book existed centuries ago, and that many parts of this book are archaeologically and historically accurate. Not only that, but other pieces of history talk about people who kept this dragon in their home. He tells you that the people were at one time seen as a cult, persecuted, and viewed unfavorably by the public, but everyone still talked about the invisible dragon they kept… Okay, so there’s something else going on here than just a delusion. He’s just reading too much fan fiction, conspiracy theories, or something like that.

The guy continues on in his explanation about how trustworthy the book is due to ancient manuscripts, historical documents that are corroborating evidence, and the sheer depth of the book. He goes on and on and ON about this book, and how because of this book he believes in this invisible dragon. He goes on and on about how he can trust this book. In the end you walk away kinda rubbing your head at the insanity you just heard… An invisible dragon. Come on, you can’t be serious.

And indeed I’m not. The analogy above is a rough demonstration of what would have been a more accurate comparison, than Sagan’s,  however it is still lacking a fundamental piece: it’s God not an invisible dragon. The reason I make the story conclude with the person still not believing in the dragon is not because one should come to the same conclusion about God’s existence. The reason the conclusion is drawn is because it’s an invisible dragon. The evidence given is not one that would be an abundance of convincing evidence for something like an invisible dragon, Peter Pan, or Santa Clause. No, but the evidence given is much more convincing for something that also scientifically and philosophically makes sense.

Scientifically, the existence of God makes sense due to the Law of Biogenesis, which (attributed to Louis Pasteur) is the observation that living things come only from other living things. Mathematically, the existence of God makes sense (see Godel’s Ontological Proof and Cantor’s Absolute Infinite). Philosophically, a God existing makes sense because of motion and the need for something to have set everything in motion. Nothing does not set something in motion. Something has to set something in motion, and philosophically is makes sense that there is a stopping point at the existence of something creating something. In other words, you have to decide at some point that there was something that was never created or you run the risk of ad infinitum. There has to be something that just was or just is or both (this is a rough sketch of the Cosmological argument). Therefore, there must be something that just Is just as the Christian God said His name was, “I Am.” Philosophically, there has to be some supernatural being. Here’s the point: there is more than just a book that tells a story with evidence to back it up; there are logical reasons to believe in God- unlike an invisible dragon.

Let’s take a look at the evidences outside of science, math, and philosophy.

Internal Evidences

The Bible by itself has a considerable amount going for it. The book is rather immaculate. Except for some small differences between the Gospels (that amount to nothing in the grand scheme of things) and maybe some small (and I mean really small) translation errors, the book is essentially perfect. The book contains several complex motifs and and all points in one general direction throughout its entirety, and for that reason it is a wonderful piece of literature. However, what makes this book even more than a wonderful piece of literature is how different it is than other works. Not only does this book make the claim to be true History, but it does so with great historical accuracy. Moreover, the book in all of its greatness was not organized by some author or group of men sitting around trying to make the most amazing story ever. The Bible contains 66 books, written over the course of 1500-1600 years, and by 40 different authors who were not all of the same walk of life. They even had a variety of different situations and events in which they dealt with and grew up in. All this time period and all the different authors, and the whole book still points to two common themes displayed over and over again in various ways: what God says matters and the problem of sin versus salvation. The book is simply beautiful due to its complexity and unending source of knowledge.

Another interesting thing to note about the internal evidences of the Bible are the prophecies. From the third chapter of Genesis to the end of the Old Testament there is prophecy after prophecy of the coming Messiah, and Jesus fulfills them all. The Old Testament contains foreshadowing after foreshadowing of the great things to come in the New Testament. Moreover, there are many prophecies that are so accurate to History that it amazes the reader. For instance, there is the prophecy of Daniel’s in which he foresees the coming of 3 kingdoms after the Babylonian Empire. Daniel explains that 3 kingdoms will rise up and in the time of the third kingdom the kingdom of God would come. Turning through the pages of History you find that the Medo-Persian Empire took over the Babylonian, the Greeks took over the Medo-Persians, the Romans took over the Greeks, and in the time of the Roman Empire there comes Jesus proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus, the one that was killed for being a heretic by the people who were supposed to know and understand this prophecy, and thereby giving reason to believe that it was rigged by the people. This is just one good place to start, but there are so many prophecies to look into in which the foretelling was so precise.

Historical and Archaeological Evidences for the Bible

I mentioned that there are historical evidences for the Bible. I have a short list of things, but one can find a plethora of items in books such as The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and a simple search through Google. The few evidences I want to mention are not necessarily pieces of history that align with stories of the Bible, but rather pieces of the Bible found in history and pieces of archaeology that mention Yahweh.

Two famous pieces of the Bible found elsewhere besides the whole canons used so often are the 4Qflorilegium from the Dead Sea Scrolls[1] and the LXX Septugent. The Dead Sea Scrolls piece comes from around 300 to 100 B.C and contains several pieces of Old Testament scripture. the LXX Septugent is from around 280 to 100 B.C and contains many books of the Old Testament. These manuscripts are profound and excellent pieces of evidence because it can verify that many, if not all, prophecies really did get written down before Christ’s existence.

A few archaeological pieces one may find interesting are the Ebla Tablet, the Tel Dan Stele, the Mesha Stele, and Pilate Dedication stone. These are all just some pieces that validate the historical accuracy of the Bible, and they are also just pretty cool.This is just a place to start.

There are far more pieces than this if one takes the time to do the research. One can easily find a lot of History that agrees with the Bible and a lot of archaeology that confirms the Bible.

Oral Tradition

Many of those that are skeptical of the Bible and at least halfway have a reason why will know that the Bible heavily relied on oral tradition for what is estimated to be 20 years after the time of Jesus’ presence on earth. There are some sources that will dictate that this time period exhibited a fluctuation of literacy between 5% to 20%. For this reason, the skeptics feel completely confident in concluding that the story of Jesus can’t be right because we all know how the game of telephone works.[3]

However, the game of telephone, much like Sagan’s analogy, is a bad one. One reason why the analogy is bad is because we live in a completely different culture than them. It is known that many rabbis of that time would memorize the entire New Testament. This may seem impossible to us, but that’s because of the age we live in. We live in an age in which memorization is hardly needed because we have all information at the end of our fingers. Moreover, we have lived in a time of written text so we can always go back to the source. I think a good comparison for then and now with memory would be math before calculators. Because of the increase in calculators, many struggle to do double digit multiplication in their head and sometimes on paper. However, before calculators people had to do such things and could do it much more efficiently and accurately. This is the way our memory is compared to then. We don’t use it near as much as they likely did, and for that reason we likely don’t have as apt of a memory as those that would pass these stories on.

Another reason why the telephone analogy is a bad one is because in the game of telephone you hear something once, don’t get to ask what it was again, tell someone, don’t get to repeat it, and then don’t get to check and see if they have it right. In the world of oral tradition, one person would have told someone something, and then it would have to be repeated back at least by the second person. Moreover, the people who originally told the story would have been around and could correct those that were telling it wrong.

Another reason why oral tradition can be seen as trustworthy is because about 80% of Jesus’ sayings, when translated back to Aramaic, use mnemonic structure This implies that things were said, written, and used in such a way that it was easy to memorize. It’s sort of like how my 70 year old grandfather can still recite a poem to you that he gave in eighth grade, but he probably doesn’t recite it but once a year. Moreover, there is evidence to support that oral tradition wouldn’t have been oral only, but also complemented with the use of text. The stories very well may have been kept up with via small notes and reminders of certain parts of the story.[3]

Another thing to think about is the comparison of the Bible to Homer’s Iliad and Alexander the Great’s history. If one does not trust the Bible and is consistent about not trusting oral tradition, then one must completely throw out what we know about both of these things. The reason being that there are about 1000 years between the supposed origin of Homer’s Iliad and it being written down, and there are about 200 years between Alexander the Great and written manuscripts containing his history. However, there is only about 20 years between when the New Testament is thought to have begun its process of being written down, and only about 100 years before we find the first manuscripts of the Bible. This means that the oral tradition of the New Testament would have lasted a lot shorter of a time period than Alexander the Great’s history and Homer’s Iliad. Therefore, if the skeptic is to be consistent in his distrust of the Bible due to oral tradition, the skeptic must also refuse to believe Alexander the Great’s history and Homer’s Iliad as being kept close to the original state. Seeing as how the Gospel’s span of time without documentation is so much shorter than most of historical, odds are in its favor for accuracy over many other documents.[1]

Reason to Trust the Manuscripts

Another skeptical argument against the Bible has to deal with the lack of original documents and all of the translations and such. Well, the lack of original documents really goes back to the last point I made, are you going to complain and not trust the History of Alexander the great? Moreover, the lack of the originals is made up for by the vast amount of documents we have that all agree. We have some documents of the Gospel of John going back to the second century, about 306 documents of a specific type of Greek written in capital letters coming from around 350 A.D, about 2856 documents (in another style of Greek) coming from around 800 A.D, and a totality of about 24,000 manuscripts to work with. Furthermore, these manuscripts all agree more than most historical documents of that day and age (According to philosopher Norman Geisler and scholar William Nix, the manuscripts are 99.5% pure. Take that as you wish).[2]

An analogy I would like to make in order to help someone comprehend how a copy of a copy is worth trusting is as follows: you trust a yard stick, a scale, and a measuring cup. All of these things are just copies of copies (Fun fact for ya, the definition of a kilogram actually exists and is stored in Paris under international agreement). You really have no reason to trust these standards except for the fact that they are all you have known for your whole life. You’ve really never even had the opportunity to compare these standards to the original standard to make sure they were accurate. However, because all of these copies of copies are so precise and so close to the same size, you feel obligated to trust them. One might even say that you believe the people who copied such things would have had a high amount of integrity in copying them. You feel validated in trusting them for these two reasons, but if you’re honest it’s just the first one. This is just like the Bible. It is not the original, in fact it is copies of copies of copies. However, because all the manuscripts from different geographical locations and different languages coming from different times all agree to such a precise amount, you ought to be justified in trusting them. Moreover, the integrity of the copiers was to the extent of being killed for their pursuits. This wasn’t just in the very beginning, but even when Catholicism was spreading by the sword it was killing those who were trying to have it made in English rather than Latin. There was a large amount of integrity in the copiers, from the beginning to the King James Version.

So we have a large amount of manuscripts dating back to the second century (for the New Testament), we have a small gap between the story and the manuscripts of the Gospels, we have a large amount of manuscripts with a lot of precision involved in the creation, and we have the sincerity of the copiers. There is enough evidence to trust the manuscripts of the New Testament. Therefore, there is no reason to doubt here.

The Persecutions

One of the skeptical arguments about Christianity is that it only grew by the edge of the sword through the Roman Empire. Now, I’m not going to deny that happened; however, the skeptics are ignoring the part of history in which Christians were the ones persecuted, not persecuting. Why did they grow during that time? There is an answer.

One of the primary books used as a skeptical analysis of Christianity’s persecution is The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss. Her argument is that the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire is blown out of proportion and relies too heavily on Eusebius’ (who claimed to be a Christian) claims (who is debated by the skeptics as not being a good historian). Moss argues that the Roman Empire persecuted Christians for only 10 sporadic years from Jesus to the Edict of Toleration in 311 A.D. One of the first persecutions of Christians came around 64 A.D by Nero, and this is documented by Tacitus (not a Christian), a respected historian. There were some sporadic killings by the empire involved, but there was also the Diocletian persecution of the Christians around 303 A.D (some sources make the claim of there being over 20,000 Christians killed). The Diocletian persecution is the persecution that involved the killings in the Coliseum and it was brutal. There is no denying of that anywhere. However, Moss claims that the 10 years of persecution is not enough to matter or affect the growth. Maybe so. At the very least we can say the Empire persecuted them 10 sporadic years.

I’m not going to argue the point about the actual amount of persecution by the Roman Empire because I am not a historian. All I know is that Eusebius, a Christian Roman historian in the late 200’s and early 300’s. Still, I did notice in my studying of Moss’s work the lack of arguments about Christians being persecuted by the Jews and the Pagans as the time. It is known that Christians were not liked. They split up homes, were viewed as cult, were rejected, and persecuted by Pagans and Jews. There is no reason for them to grow at a time like that: when persecution isn’t just not being able to tell your parents your change in life, but the fear of being an outcast by society or stoned by your family. There is no reason why a staunch group of Jews (keep in mind their segregation between them and the Gentiles) would leave that religion, join Christianity, and have to start accepting the Gentiles all while becoming outcasts, getting killed, and having to split their homes because of it. There’s just no reason unless they had some sincerity involved. Some motivation that goes to the point of death.

The Bible isn’t true because of these persecutions, but these persecutions ought to cause a skeptic to raise an eyebrow about why a Jew would do such a thing. About why a Corinthian would leave the liberty of partying to the devout prudishness of a Christian. The why is what gets me. It’s some strong evidence in favor of the Bible’s truth.

Corroborating Evidence

Briefly, I would like to make note of three historians that are widely accepted by skeptics and Christians alike: Tacitus, Josephus, and Pliny the Younger. Josephus was a Jewish (not Christian Jewish) historian of the first century, Tacitus was a senator of the Roman Empire that was also a historian writing around 115 A.D, and Pliny the Younger who governed the persecution of many Christians and wrote in 111 A.D. These are all significant because they are not biased towards Christianity in any way shape or form, but all give evidence towards the existence of Jesus, the rapid spreading of Christianity, the sincerity of faith even in the face of persecution, and some of the teachings of the first century Christians. Corroborating evidence is huge, and this gives the Bible some extra credentials for being a book to trust for accuracy and truth[2]

Conclusion

It is important to note at this point that I am not a historian, nor am I an encyclopedia. I am also not intentionally dishonest. All the facts that I have given are from the things that I have read and discovered over the past few years. This is also not where one should stop if wishing to know about evidences for faith. My knowledge is very limited, but I have given a good starting place for various evidences that I have found through an honest inquiry on the subject.

Due to the philosophical, mathematical, and scientific reasons, combined with the provided evidence that the Bible is trustworthy, I find it reasonable to conclude that there is not a burden of evidence in which the Bible must fulfill. Instead, I conclude that I don’t need reason to believe (because I have been given plenty), but that I need reason to doubt.

My earnest desire is for the readers of this to be open minded. My inquiries in this particular area have been primarily in the direction of defense for the faith; however, I have not shielded myself from reading skeptical articles, watching skeptical videos, and even talking to several skeptics myself. If you are a skeptic reading this, my hope is that you will genuinely consider this claim for faith in the Christian God and many more.

I firmly believe that God has created a world in which there are people with mental faculties capable of honestly searching and finding Him to be true. I hope that you have found this interesting and/or helpful in your search for truth.

Subscripted Sources:

[1] Chapter Three of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

[2] Chapter Four of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

[3] Chapter Sixteen of True Reason by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer

It’s Always Up to Forgiveness

Let me tell you a story about Johnny. Johnny was a 26 year old, happily married man. Johnny was a man of routine: every day from eight to four he went to work; on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday he had a workout session; he had church on Sunday and Wednesday; on Monday nights he had a Bible study; on Saturdays he volunteered at the local children’s hospital; and he had family time with his wife and parents to fill up the rest. One could say that Johnny was both a busy and a pretty good guy. However, on one particular Friday, Johnny was having a really rough day.

On said Friday, Johnny woke up and got ready as usual, but throughout the day Johnny made several mistakes. The mistakes that occurred were as follows: he broke his wife’s favorite necklace (an expensive inheritance from her late grandmother); he forgot about his lunch plans with his mother and ate somewhere with coworkers; he made his boss mad because he misused a piece of equipment; he got in an argument with his friend over personal matters; and he got put in a situation he didn’t like and lied—sinning against God. All of these mistakes occurred in one day, and Johnny was distraught for quite a while because of it.

Now let me tell you about how Johnny made it up to all of these people. When Johnny got home that Friday evening and saw his wife, he went right up to her, told her what happened, showed sincere guilt, and apologized. His wife forgave him. Saturday, Johnny went to his mother and took her some flowers, apologizing for how he had forgotten about her. She forgave him. That same day Johnny also apologized to his friend for arguing so belligerently with him, but Johnny’s friend said that the only way he’d forgive him was if he played a game of golf with him the next Saturday. Johnny did exactly that and his friend forgave him. That next Monday Johnny went and apologized to his boss asking how to make it up to him. His boss told him that he could if he took the responsibility of handling some papers that day. Johnny handled the papers and turned it into his boss, but the boss still wasn’t forgiving. Johnny asked what else he could do to make it up, and he said that he would make it up if Johnny would stay late that day to finish some things up. Johnny stayed late, and the next day the boss still hadn’t forgiven him. This continued on for quite a while until Johnny realized that his boss would never forgive him and he ended up having to deal with that for as long as he worked there. However, the Friday he lied Johnny prayed to God to forgive him for his deception—and based upon 1John 1:9 I believe that he was forgiven.

Something I wish to be understood from this story is that in each individual case it was always up to forgiveness. I stated that Johnny “made it up to all of these people,” but in reality Johnny didn’t make up for anything. No matter what Johnny did, Johnny was still wrong for each of the things he did. No matter how much good Johnny tried to do, it still didn’t make up for his misbehavior. As the example of the boss shows, doing a specific thing for someone doesn’t ensure that you made up for anything or that you will be forgiven. In every case, the people who were wronged had to make the decision (a decision founded in love) to forgive Johnny. And in every single case Johnny—out of love and a good conscience—had to make the decision to do what they asked in order to “make up for it.” No good thing that was done took away the bad thing, made it to where the bad thing never happened, removed the memory, or made up for it. The people who were wronged had to make the decision to forgive Johnny, and the more each person loved Johnny— the easier it was to forgive Johnny.

These situations show two truths found in the Bible.The first truth taught is that every time you do good, you’re merely doing what you’re supposed to do and nothing more. There is no making up for what is wrong by doing good because by doing good you’re merely doing what you should have been doing in the first place. The second truth taught is that love is what makes up for the sins. A wrong doing is not made up for by good actions, rather it is overlooked by the wronged having the love to forgive the person. The wife, the mom, and the friend all forgave because they loved him and they knew he really was sorry—not because he did good things. Even in the case of the friend this is true. The friend didn’t require the good to make up for the bad so much as the good was proof that Johnny was sorry and changed. However, the boss didn’t forgive him because the boss had no love for Johnny.

All of this is true about God as well. There is nothing you can do to make up for the sins you commit. The only way to “make up for your sins” is through the forgiveness our loving God offers through Jesus Christ. There is no amount of philanthropy, good acts, or sacrifice that makes up for your sins—there is only the need for you to have Godly sorrow leading to repentance (2Cor. 7:9-11; which is essentially proof of change) and faith in God (Rom. 4:1-3). These requirements cause God through His loving mercy to forgive you of your sins.

All of this being considered, it follows that a common myth must be debunked. There is a common myth that the way a person is to be judged by others or by God is similar to a see-saw or a scale. The idea presented is that as long as you do more good things than bad things, you are considered good (e.g. The more good you do the more mass is added to the good side, and the more bad you do the more mass is added to the bad side. Whichever side is lower portrays whether or not said person is good or bad). However, as shown in the analogy with Johnny— and the verses of the Bible above—this just isn’t the case. When taking the see-saw method and combining it with my previous conclusion, what you really end up with is that no one is good because doing good things simply does not add to the good side of the see-saw. In fact, each person would really have started with zero mass on the good side, and for every good thing done there is no mass added because doing good is simply what is expected—not something that earns you anything. In every individual case of a person, the goodness is always lacking because while doing good adds zero mass, doing wrong always adds mass. However, (given that the person genuinely feels sorry and works to do better) due to an application and love and forgiveness on the perceiver’s/judge’s part, the lack of goodness does not result in the person being culpable.

On the flip side, I would like to consider the ramifications of everything I have just said to be incorrect. If perhaps what I have said is incorrect (that the myth of the see-saw method is not a myth at all) then there are some serious implications and requirements. If doing good removes the evil or if doing good actually does add mass to the good side of the scale then there is a question to ask: what particular good has the same positive value of any particular evil’s negative value? Furthermore, when approaching areas often considered being grey, where do those actions fit on this see-saw? These are questions that must be answered to even begin to embrace the concept of balancing the good against the evil.

By what standard are we going to assess the individual value of each good/evil occurrence? If considering the nature of God and what we know in the Bible, what can we find that gives us the idea that God uses the see-saw method? If there is such evidence, what evidence can we find that tells us what each good is worth compared with each evil? Without looking at the Bible, how do we even begin to decide what is good or bad (not to mention the difficulty of placing a value on each individual good or evil action)? If we have the ability to critique, it follows that there is a standard in play. Therefore, by what standard are we to deduce the value of each good or each bad action? These things need to be considered in order to accept the see-saw system of good versus evil.

Moreover, the question of where forgiveness fits must be considered because there is apparently no need for it as long as an accumulation of doing good things can overcome the accumulation of bad actions. If doing good can just outdo the bad then no one has the choice of forgiving or not. One can only accept that the person has done so many good things that the bad thing can’t cause them to be culpable… and then what? Once you observe the amount of good versus the amount of bad you immediately have to decide that the person is all good—even though the person may not feel the least bit sorry about the bad they did? If doing good can just outweigh the bad then essentially any person can continue on clinging to their personal crux without ever having to try and quit it. If a person so desires to continue stealing from the Dollar General, but doesn’t desire to be a bad person, said person must only do a lot of other good stuff (without any known standard to show what equates to the bad action of stealing) in order to maintain their status of being good.

Quite frankly, the see-saw concept of good versus evil destroys all moral integrity. Any given person has some X good thing he or she likes to do and can easily do. Moreover, said person also has some Y bad thing he or she likes to do and doesn’t wish to quit. If said person wishes to maintain the status of good and continue doing Y (with some unknown mass value for the scale), said person must only continue doing the proper amount of X (with some unknown mass value for the scale) that the person can easily do. What follows, is to be good—no single person has to apply much effort. Anyone can do what they like doing. Anyone can continue to do what they don’t want to quit. There’s no moral integrity within this system of evaluating good and evil, and for that very reason it must not be upheld.

But what of the situation in which the scale can only move in favor of good given that the person feels sorry for what he or she did (e.g. imagine an unmovable stilt under the good side of the see-saw that never allows it to go down without someone feeling sorry for what they did)? Well this implies that the judge must perceive the wrongdoer as genuinely feeling sorry, and then must remove this imaginary stilt. In other words, the judge must forgive the person of the wrong. However, this is still not forgiveness in its complete form because the judge must still require the wrongdoer to do enough good to outweigh the bad. This brings us back to having to consider what good can outweigh the bad, and also comes back to the situation Johnny had with his boss. Johnny never could have been viewed as good by his boss (the judge in this situation) because the boss never would have seen the good as enough to outweigh the bad. This is the case because doing good simply does not make up for the bad: the judge must forgive Johnny completely in order for him to be judged as good.

This case is the closest it gets to considering morality to be like the see-saw system. In this case there is still a necessity but not sufficiency of doing good to be seen as good, and there is still a need for forgiveness in order to be seen as good. However, the problem of deciding what standard or method should be used to evaluate the value of each good and evil action is still needs to be answered. Also, there is still the problem of where grey areas fit. Moreover, there is a problem with the development of pride within a person. The more a person does good, always feels sorry, and repents for doing wrong, the more the person’s scale will read them as good. Thus, the more the person feels entitled for being good or at the very least better than so-and-so. The resulting pride is something far from beneficial to any society or culture in which the prideful person exists, and therefore, the see-saw method contains another issue.

In the system in which there is no mass added for doing good, however, there are less issues. In this method there is no need for the see-saw at all because given that any person feels bad and tries to do better there is no culpability (unless the judge is obstinate and unforgiving… which God isn’t). In the method dominantly seen in the Bible, the mass on the evil side of the see-saw is simply removed every time there is forgiveness. Moreover, there is no need to define values because each good action is zero mass and every bad action—no matter how bad or less bad—is one mass. However, grey areas are and will probably always be a debatable subject.

The ramification of this system is integrity to always seek forgiveness and grace, and thus to always try to do better. There is no pride in this system—there is only gratitude for the forgiveness. Any person who begins to consider his or herself better than another must only look at the bad they have done and the forgiveness that was offered to remember that they are not good or better than anyone—they are simply forgiven. Said person shouldn’t see others that continually and remorselessly do wrong as someone who is worse than his or herself, but rather someone who needs love and forgiveness so that they too can have the desire to do better.

Therefore, it is my conclusion that the see-saw system of judging good versus evil is not only lacking a considerable amount of ground-work, but it is a flawed system that will at best produce pride and a sense of entitlement within a good person. At best it will also cause anger and jealousy within a person labeled as bad. Moreover, the system in which there is no see-saw to judge good and evil (the system portrayed in the Bible) is the better system. This system—when applied correctly—will result in a person having humility and gratitude. This system will cause a person to understand that they are not better—they are forgiven. When applied correctly, it should cause the forgiven person to feel blessed beyond what he or she deserves—not better. Moreover, this system will not cause prejudice by the forgiven, but a sharing of this forgiveness and its requirement to those that lack it. This system is a system that is rooted in love, applies love, and causes love. This system is always up to forgiveness.

Spiritual Gifts

Introduction

There are a lot of people that believe that Spiritual Gifts such as speaking in tongues and prophesying are still employed by God today. However, there is evidence in the Bible that can lead one to believe this is not true. The purpose of this study is to show what the Bible says about Spiritual Gifts and hopefully edify the reader in some way.

I. God has Operated in Two Ways

A. Supernaturally: 2Kings 6:14-17

2Ki 6:14-17  So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.  (15)  When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”  (16)  He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  (17)  Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

In this Old Testament story, God overcame an army with an army of angels which was a supernatural operation by God.

B. Naturally: Habakkuk 1:5-6

Hab 1:5-6  “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.  (6)  For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.

In this Old Testament story, God overcame a people with another physical army from the Chaldeans. This wasn’t a supernatural operation by God, but rather a natural, physical way that God put His will into action

These two different ways of God operating in the world are the same two ways that we see throughout the Bible. A simple example would be a supernatural way of showing love like healing the blind versus a natural way of showing love like giving your money to them.

II. The Spiritual Gifts

1Co 12:7-11  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  (8)  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,  (9)  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,  (10)  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  (11)  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Rom 12:6-8  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;  (7)  if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;  (8)  the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Looking at all the different gifts mentioned, some of them don’t seem to be something that would be divinely given such as the ability to speak in a different language or the ability to prophesy. However, all of the things mentioned are gifts that each person in the church at the time supposedly possessed. Something to notice is that with the exception of prophecy, most all of the gifts can be obtained naturally and not just supernaturally. For instance, I can have faith, speak another language (“tongues” refers to foreign languages: Acts 2:4-12), and have faith through a natural working of God rather than a supernatural.  So all gifts except for prophesy can be obtained naturally, but we also have evidence from the Bible that the gifts were supernaturally obtained.

III. Why did God Give Spiritual Gifts?

A. How do you Know I’m not Fooling You?

When considering why God gave spiritual gifts, it’s good to consider your own spiritual life today. How do you know that I’m not lying if I tell you that Jesus died on the cross? The answer would be the Bible. Working under the assumption that you’re a Bible believer, you can know whether or not I’m teaching truth by checking my facts against the Bible. However, in 40 AD there was no Bible, there were no epistles from Paul, the Gospel was primarily spread orally, and any form of “Biblical” writing would have been scarce if not nonexistent. How did they know what the truth was?

B. The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

Act 2:22  “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—

Joh 14:11  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Act 8:13  Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

Heb 2:3-4  how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,  (4)  while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Joh 20:30-31  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  (31)  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

These verses give an account of the general use and affect of spiritual gifts, and reading any one of the first three Gospels will show how effective it was to get a crowd with the use of miracles. The purpose of the supernaturally given spiritual gifts was to prove a teaching is correct. Jesus taught about people coming and claiming to be a Messiah and Paul talked about false prophets coming, and we know that there were a lot of liars around trying to be some prophet. How were they supposed to know who to trust without the written Word of God? Spiritual gifts is the answer. Just imagine being in the first century with many people running around trying to gain fame by being the next Jesus or being a Messiah. Who would you trust, the guy who made someone’s arm grow from a nub to full length or the guy standing there doing nothing but teaching? The purpose of the Spiritual gifts was to help listeners know God’s truth.

IV. Did Spiritual Gifts Cease?

A. The Purpose was Fulfilled

We now have the written Word of God that was passed on by the Apostles. There is no longer a need for spiritual gifts to make sure that what someone tells us is true. We can go to the Bible and test what we hear from there.

B. Means of Obtaining them have Ceased

Act 1:5-7  for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (6)  So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  (7)  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

One means of obtaining spiritual gifts is being baptized with the Holy Spirit, an occurrence that is only documented twice in the Bible (Acts 2 and 10). Both involve the Holy Spirit filling someone and the people immediately speaking in tongues. This isn’t something that happens today.

Act 8:18-19  Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,  (19)  saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

The second way of obtaining spiritual gifts is through the laying on of hands by the Apostles. Seeing as how all the apostles are long gone and dead now, this way to obtaining the gifts is no longer possible.

C. Paul said they would Cease

1Co 13:8-13  Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  (9)  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  (10)  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  (11)  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  (12)  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  (13)  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul said that the miracles were going to cease. Therefore, they either already have or they will some time. What it depends on is what “the perfect” that is coming is because when that comes/came the miracles will/did cease. The word “perfect” in the Bible often means “complete” or “mature” rather than immaculate like we think. A quick look at the Greek will confirm that this is the case for verse 10. So what is needed is to discuss the options of that the “complete” thing is in the context, and to do this I’m going to discuss the context with the written word of God being the complete and then Jesus as the complete.

1. The Written Word of God

i. Prophecies, Tongues, Knowledge

It seems reasonable that the need for prophecies and supernatural knowledge from God would go away when the written word of God was complete because all the prophecies would be written down, the knowledge would be written down, and anyone who accepted it as the Word of God (as we do today) would have what they needed. Tongues is where the idea may seem to fail, but since some people have the natural ability to translate, it seems reasonable that that gift may pass away. All miracles in fact could be done away with since the purpose was to know for sure what God’s truth was. Therefore, “perfect” being the written word of God is reasonable in light of the context here.

ii. Know in Part vs. Know Fully

Something to consider with this point is what each individual apostle may have known. One could argue that every divinely inspired piece of knowledge that Paul knew, Peter knew as well. However, in 2Pe. 3:15-16 Peter refers to Paul’s writings as difficult to understand. Therefore, one could argue that he didn’t. Regardless of this is the fact that Paul wrote the Corinthians, a church that had members possessing divinely given knowledge from God. If all the people knew everything then Paul wouldn’t have need to write to the Corinthians. Therefore, they didn’t know fully—they knew in part. However, when the written word of God was completed, they could know fully God’s will. Therefore, this works in this context.

2. Jesus

i. Know in Part vs. Know Fully

Seems pretty obvious to that when Jesus comes back and we go to heaven that we will know fully. Therefore, this fits the context.

ii. Prophecies, Tongues, and Knowledge

When Jesus comes back and the dead in Christ rise and go to be in heaven, it seems reasonable that Prophecies and Tongues may cease. There will be no need to heal, no need to prophecy, and no need for tongues. However, what about the miracle of God giving you knowledge? I believe that after Jesus comes back that I will receive knowledge directly from God in Heaven. I believe that I will obtain knowledge of the glory of God, the glory of heaven, and the knowledge what an angel looks like, and so on. I believe that after Jesus comes back I will know far more than I know now. Based upon this perspective, I do not think that it fits the context for Jesus being the “perfect” because knowledge from God is supposed to cease after the perfect comes, and that’s just not the case.

D. The Supernatural Spiritual Gifts have Ceased

Looking briefly at 1Co. 13:13 again, notice it says that now abides hope, faith, and love, but the greatest is love. One could suppose that he is making another point about how love will never cease, but other things will. The Gifts from God were going to last until the perfect comes, but faith and hope and love would continue. Moreover, faith and hope would continue until the coming of Christ, but after that they will cease because we’ll have eye sight knowledge and we will have obtained our hope. However, love will continue. I use this example to show how God is working in stages and always has. He began the world talking directly to the beings he created, then the fathers, then the prophets, then through Jesus, then through the Holy Spirit through the apostles to others with spiritual gifts, and now through faith and hope found in the written word. One day he will communicate his love by love and it will endure forever. Supernatural spiritual gifts were just a stage of development and have cease; likewise, one day our faith and hope will cease and we will simply have love.

V. Answering Common Objections

1. If You don’t do Miracles then You don’t have the Spirit

This common objection just doesn’t work because it also implies that if you have the spirit then you do miracles, and this just isn’t true. This can be proved by looking at John the Baptist.

Luk 1:15  for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

Joh 10:41  And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.”

Examining John shows that he was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, but never did a sign or a miracle, rather. Therefore, just because you have the spirit doesn’t mean that you do miracles. Moreover, just because you don’t do miracles doesn’t mean you don’t have the spirit.

2. You Can’t See them because You Lack Faith

If there’s any group of people in the Bible that didn’t have true faith, it’d be the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Joh 11:47  So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.

Act 4:16  saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.

And despite their lack of conviction and faith in Christ, they saw the miracles of Jesus and the apostles. Therefore, the observer’s faith should have nothing to do with the miracle performed. In fact, Biblical examples show that lack of performance correlates with lack of faith on the performer’s part.

Mat 17:15-20  said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.  (16)  And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”  (17)  And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” (18)  And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.  (19)  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”  (20)  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Here we have an example of the disciples of Christ not being able to perform a miracle. And what was the cause of their lack of ability? Jesus said that it was because of their little faith. Therefore, it seems to me that if miracles have not ceased then one’s ability should not depend on the observer, but their own.

Conclusion

Supernatural spiritual gifts simply do not exist today. God’s Word says that they would cease, it seems reasonable with the context that they should have when God’s Word came, and the lack of evidence for supernatural spiritual gifts shouldn’t depend on my faith. The purpose of the gifts is fulfilled through the written Word of God and if any person desires to know God’s truth, said person should turn to God’s Word.

Touching on natural spiritual gifts, these do exist today, and reading and meditating on God’s Word helps Christians obtain these gifts. Many of these gifts are contained in the fruits of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, and these play a crucial role in the life of a Christian. Moreover, if one begins to think that supernatural spiritual gifts are necessary to prove they are Christ’s then they are wrong because a natural fruit of the spirit is sufficient—love. Love is more excellent than all supernatural gifts (1Co. 12:31, 13:13), and is how many will know you are Christ’s (Jn. 13:35). Therefore, since supernatural spiritual gifts don’t exist today and there is still a need to prove discipleship, the modern Christian should—above all else—seek to excel in love.

Revelation and Daniel

As many know, the book of Revelation has many different interpretations from people from all different backgrounds. Interestingly enough, no matter what interpretation you believe in or feel confident in, everyone comes to the same general conclusion about the book: God wins. As cool as it is that the conclusion seems to be the same, the details of the interpretation getting there are far from the same. Another book that has some similarities in the content of Revelation is Daniel, and some of the details of Daniel’s prophecy sound oddly similar to the details of John’s revelation.

(http://www.testimoniesofheavenandhell.com/Bible-Verses/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Bible-Verse-Revelation-3-21-King-Jesus-Picture-On-The-Holy-Throne-In-Heaven-HD-Wallpaper.jpg)

One form of interpretation of Revelation is a historic interpretation in which the revelation is said to be about the empires from Babylon to Rome and its emperors. Along with this historic view of the revelation, comes the details of persecution and freedom from persecution—hence the conclusion that God wins. One of the big reasons behind this belief comes from Revelation 1:1-3 in which John writes, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,  (2)  who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.  (3)  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” Also from Revelation 22:6 and 10, “ And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” Rev 22:10  “And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” The historic view of Revelation comes from “soon take place” and “the time is near”, and the idea is that because of those phrases the prophecies from Revelation must be about something that happened in that generation’s time of living. So the historic interpretation looks at how some of the details of Revelation must pertain to the time leading up to and the time very soon after the occurrence of John’s Revelation.

(I would like to make a disclaimer at this point that the interpretation that I am about to attempt to talk about is not necessarily what I believe. I find it to be interesting and seemingly accurate, but I don’t know enough to say with confidence that I believe this interpretation to be the truth.)

One of the prophecies from Daniel that lines up with a detail of Revelation has a very interesting historic interpretation. The correlation comes from chapter 7 of Daniel with the four beasts, and chapter 13 of Revelation with the beast coming out of the sea.

Daniel 7 Revelation 13
Dan 7:1-28  In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter.  (2)  Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.  (3)  And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.  (4)  The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.  (5)  And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’  (6)  After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it.  (7)  After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.  (8)  I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.  (9)  “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.  (10)  A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.  (11)  “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.  (12)  As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.  (13)  “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  (14)  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.  (15)  “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me.  (16)  I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things.  (17)  ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth.  (18)  But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’  (19)  “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet,  (20)  and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions.  (21)  As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them,  (22)  until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.  (23)  “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces.  (24)  As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings.  (25)  He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.  (26)  But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end.  (27)  And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’  (28)  “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.” Rev 13:1-10  And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.  (2)  And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.  (3)  One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.  (4)  And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”  (5)  And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.  (6)  It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.  (7)  Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation,  (8)  and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.  (9)  If anyone has an ear, let him hear:  (10)  If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

The sea beast in Revelation has six similar characteristics with the beasts in Daniel: came up from the sea (Dan. 7:3; Rev. 13:1), a lion (Dan. 7:4; Rev. 13:2), a bear (Dan. 7:5; Rev. 13:2), a leopard (Dan. 7:6; Rev. 13:2), ten horns (Dan. 7:7; Rev. 13:1), and a mouth speaking great things (Dan. 7:8; Rev. 13:5). Looking at the sea beast in Revelation and the four beasts in Daniel, one way of interpreting this is that the four beasts describe the four kingdoms from Babylon to Rome, with Rome being the final beast in Daniel. One thing to note here is that in Daniel it is four different beasts while in Revelation it is all one beast with the characteristics of the four separate beasts. This may make some skeptical, but it seems to fit together rather well regardless of this fact.

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The idea of the four beasts being the four kingdoms goes back to another prophecy in Daniel chapter 2 in which the fall of Babylon, the rise of the next three kingdoms, and the coming of the kingdom of God is prophesied. The kingdoms go in chronological order so the first is Babylon, the second is Medo-Persia, the third is Greece, and the fourth is Rome.

The first beast in Daniel is the one that is like a lion which is said to represent the Babylonian empire and King Nebuchadnezzar. The description given in Daniel 7:4 is said to represent King Nebuchadnezzar’s fall from authority. For those that don’t know the story, King Nebuchadnezzar was foretold of his end as a ruler through a prophecy involving a tree. However, it is rather interesting to see how that this depiction of a lion with eagle’s wings fits the same visual we get of King Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling. The King was very proud at heart and God warned him through propchecy in Daniel 4 that he would fall when he became proud. In Daniel 7:4 we have a lion—known to be a great and powerful animal—with eagle’s wings—which can depict being above all else. However, these wings were plucked, and the beast was set on the ground and given a man’s heart. Just as was said, all of this fits into the description of how the King was greatly lowered in honor, and was ended with an average man’s honor rather than a king’s.

The second beast is the one like a bear in Daniel 7:5. The bear is said to represent the Medo-Persian Empire and is said to raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth. The bear represents the Medo-Persians because that empire historically was known to be strong but slow moving like a bear. The empire is described to be raised up on one side because it was split between the Medes and the Persians, but the Persian side was dominant and had more power. Moreover, the three ribs in its mouth also describe the kingdom’s devouring nature, and some speculate that the three ribs represent Assyria, Egypt, and Syria which were captured by the Medo-Persian empire.

The third beast is the one like a leopard in Daniel 7:6 which is supposed to represent Greece. The leopard had on the back of it four wings of a bird and four heads. A leopard with four wings represents Greece because of the speed in which Alexander the Great conquered the span of land that it did. The four heads is supposed to represent the four division of Greece after Alexander and the four generals that took over: Lysimachus, Cassander, Seleucus, and Ptolemy.

The fourth beast is the one that receives the most description and it is said to represent Rome. Some of its description found in Danel 7:7-15 is that it had great iron teeth,it had ten horns, a little horn that came up where there were three, and there is a description of some form of destruction of the empire. The iron teeth are supposed to represent the strength of the empire, the ten horns are supposed to represent ten kings, and the little horn represents an eleventh ruler that comes after three are uprooted.

This is where the interpretation and the similarity become a little dicey. The then horns are supposed to represent Augustus, Tiberiaus, Gaius, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Bitellius, Vespasian, and Titus. Galba, Otho, and Bitellius are supposed to represent the three horns replaced by the little horn, and the explanation given is that these three didn’t have power very long. The little horn that takes the place is Domitian. I say that this is a little dicey not just because of the three being replaced being a rough interpretation, but the beast in Revelation 17:7-121 is also supposed to be represented by the ten horns in Daniel 7 even though that beast may be a different beast than the sea beast. Rev 17:7-12  But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.  (8)  The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.  (9)  This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;  (10)  they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.  (11)  As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. (12) And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. Not only that, but this interpretation calls for each head (there are seven) to be one of the ten that aren’t uprooted, but the little horn in Daniel is supposed to be represented by the eighth head in Rev. 17:11. What about the other three?? I suppose those three are covered in the ten horns of in verse 12? Like I said, this interpretation gets a little dicey here. However, regardless of this detail, the rest of the details are seemingly free of the same problem.

Regardless of the small hang up with the specific kings to talk about, the match between the sea beast in Revelation 13 and the four beasts in Daniel 7 is quite exquisite. To (maybe) bring some clarity to the match-up think of the sea beast as a representation of kingdoms that rule over God’s people in this pivotal moment of Jewish and Christian history. There are four kingdoms and each ruled with different strengths, conquered at different speeds, and ruled in different manners. The only major difference in description between the two is that in Daniel there were four beasts and in Revelation there was one beast with four different parts. This however, is not a huge discrepancy since the one beast in Revelation can be seen to represent kingdoms as a whole.

One thing that I brought up in the beginning was how these stories depict the moral that God wins. This idea really fits in Revelation because throughout you see the elements symbolizing God or the church eventually becoming victorious in some manner. Likewise, this idea fits Daniel in several ways. Just as the church was being persecuted when Revelation was written, the Israelites were beginning their persecution under the Babylonian empire during the time of Daniel. Moreover, a recurring theme in Daniel’s visions is that God will be victorious, and this is especially clear in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the four kingdoms in Daniel 2. When the symbol for the Roman Empire comes around in that prophecy, it ends with a rock symbolizing the kingdom of God destroying it. This is where many delusions about a war-hero Messiah likely came from, but what Daniel received was the same thing that John received: a depiction of God as the winner.

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It is certainly evident that there are a lot of similarities between Daniel and Revelation. There are similar prophetic details, there are similar overarching ideas, a similar message, and a similar confusion bound to them concerning their interpretation. Could it mean this historical stuff? Sure, it definitely has some credibility. However, at the end of the day all we can really conclude with surety is that the message was supposed to give the audience the hope of a brighter future. Therefore, all I can concretely give as my interpretation is this one thing: God will win.

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**Facts and symbolism comes from material made by Pat Mannon, a source I trust and respect.