Remember the Bible Series, #17
The Bible is True
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
~ Hebrews 13:8
One of the most profound acts of obedience we can make to God is to believe what He says, when what He says is different from what we think. Indeed, changing a person’s mind can be a huge task . . . even when that person is ourselves. Human psychology can be puzzling. Why do we cling so stubbornly to what we learn as children, even when we learn, beyond any doubt, that it is incorrect? Or why do we defend ideas about religion, politics, and all manner of subjects, as if our lives depended on our ideas being right, even when the ideas are clearly wrong—or at least, just matters of opinion—and not particularly important, to boot?
I'll tell you a short story about a divinity student. I heard this from a young assistant pastor in a class, once. We were talking about Revelation, and how hard it is to glean specific facts from the enormous mass of imagery. It is generally impossible to determine which statements are plain statements of fact, and which are metaphor. This young pastor related that he knew a student, in divinity school, who was a “dispensational premillennialist” and would not even speak to other students who believed otherwise!
There are many and very different interpretations of Revelation 20. “Dispensational premillennialists” believe that there will be a pre-tribulation rapture. “Historical premillennialists” believe that Christ will not return until the end of the Great tribulation and that Christians will suffer for the faith as they bring forth the final witness associated with the 5th seal of the book of Revelation. Is your brain dizzy yet? There are also “amillennialists” who believe that Christ is presently reigning through the Church, and that the 1000 years of Revelation 20:1-6 is a metaphorical reference to the present church age. There are also a large number of “post-millennialists”!
But all of these theologies, and many variants, have one thing in common. They do not make one whit of difference to us. Our faithfulness, our obedience, our actions, the means of salvation and the nature of God, are utterly unaffected by this intellectual trap. It is a variant of the most famous theological absurdity: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? And the more time Christians spend considering and arguing about such things, the less time they spend helping the poor, preaching the salvation of Christ, praying, and all the other clear actions Christ commanded us to take.
So this divinity student got so lost in the bizarre world of Revelation 20 that he lost sight of a clear and important teaching about which there is no room for disagreement: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10.
We can see the evil effect of taking our opinions too seriously by remembering this young divinity student. Where the Bible states something clearly, we must be willing to change our opinions and conform ourselves to the Word of God. The Bible’s statements about Christian unity and harmony are crystal clear; beliefs about millennialism are the product of unclear Bible verses being interpreted by fallible human minds.
Where the Bible is clear, we must follow it, no matter how badly we want to believe something different. Moreover, we must appreciate one of the greatest things about the Bible: It never changes. Unless some inept or dishonest translator has altered the meaning in translation, it is the same now as it was 2,000 years ago. It is a fixed anchor in a world where human thought can drift into all sorts of error.
Let nobody tell us “times have changed” and therefore we may alter or ignore teachings we don’t like. Is the Bible the Word of God, or is it not? Is not God eternal? Did He not know we would be reading His Bible in the 21st century? Was He unable to tell us where parts of His Bible were contingent on societal norms? Society cannot change the Bible, for the very purpose of it is to tell us where society has gone wrong!
Christ appears as “the Word” in the first sentence of John’s Gospel, meaning that He was present at the beginning of time. There is one Christ and He never changes.
Lord, let me always remember that your Word is perfect and timeless. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer