In the present series of articles we are looking at the way many Christians in many churches attend Bible studies all their lives and never seem to progress beyond a very superficial, elementary level of knowledge. The problem isn’t new – it goes all the way back to Old Testament days, through the New Testament era and up until the present.
Through the prophet Hosea, God said to His people, Israel, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Their problem wasn’t that there was nothing for them to learn. It was that they had rejected the knowledge of God. This is a characteristic of sinful man. He always thinks himself smarter, wiser, more knowledgeable than God.
In the New Testament, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews rebukes them for their dullness of hearing that caused it to be difficult for him to get across to them the truths they needed to know (Hebrews 5:11-14). It seems they were among those who were ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The solution for them was to get off the spot they were on and grow in knowledge and faith to the point where they could be considered mature (Hebrews 6:1-3). As long as one stays in a condition of arrested development, he is, as the writer here states, a baby, spiritually speaking. Babies are incapable of caring for themselves, much less caring for someone else.
The sad part of this is that individuals are not always the ones to blame for this situation. The teaching that is done in many churches is superficial, milky, incomplete and often skewed to fit a sectarian bias. The result is people who are convinced that they are the “knowing ones,” but who are woefully ignorant of some of the most basic teachings of the Bible.
God’s word is truth. All of it is true. It is true because it is all based on the character of God in whom there is nothing false or misleading. However, one of the consequences of man being in sin is that we are easily deceived, accepting ideas and philosophies that pervade the world, mistaking these philosophies for the truth of God and mixing them .
One of the things we have bought into is a false hope regarding the future. Many American Christians hold to a sort of dichotomous concept of the future. We have bought into the deception that this nation is God’s chosen people, destined to lead the world into a golden age of peace and prosperity. Despite, or maybe more accurately, because of decades of misguided ventures into foreign countries acting as the world’s police force, the respect and influence of the United States continues to ebb away. Still, Christians cling to the threadbare hope that if we can just elect the right people and throw the bums out who have taken us down this forsaken road of misadventure into liberal politics we will still reach Utopia and live in the blessed land once again.
Israel of old desired to go the way of a powerful central government. They wanted a king to be like the nations round about them. With but few exceptions, the monarchy proved to be a failure and a cause of great distress to the people. The kings sometimes were forced to rely on the strong nation of Egypt for defense. But God warned them of the folly of trusting their security to this wicked nation.
“Behold, you are trusting now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him.” (2 Kings 18:21).
Any hope we may have today based on strength of our military or the power of our government will most certainly be dashed to pieces on the forlorn rocks of history. This nation, like all that have gone before who have relied on human ingenuity, political cunning or brute force will eventually go down to ruin.
The other hope of many Christians is to escape this world which they believe is doomed to destruction and “go to heaven when they die.” But the hope God consistently held out to people during the Old Testament era was of a perfected earth – a kind of restoration of the garden of Eden. Harking back to creation, the future promised by God is a new heavens and new earth.
“For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17).
Consider also…“For as the new heavens and the new earth
that I make
shall remain before me, says the Lord,
so shall your offspring and your name remain.” (Isaiah 66:22).
And the same promise is held out to Christians.
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:19-21).
Paul said that…
“…the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
At the conclusion of Revelation John wrote…
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5).
Here is the hope of the Christian. It is not some faraway, ethereal, indescribable, unimaginable, spiritual (non-corporeal) existence. The future held out to us in the Bible will resemble the present creation in remarkable ways – and well it should. It will be the present world with all the sin and evil removed and the earth restored to its original state – only developed to its intended end and purpose. It is God who will do this and not man.
There will be justice in the administration of human affairs. The world will not operate on the basis of profit and gain from investments and labor, but, in the likeness of the ruler of the universe, on the basis of love for one’s fellow man. There will be no “haves” and “have nots” because there will be a fair distribution of the goods and services essential to life. In other words, the world will work in the way God always intended for it to work. And that will be “heaven.”
Co-authored with Bill Van Dyke, Ph.D, Give Me Liberty: Restoring the Spirit of Jubilee examines the mission of Christ as viewed from the fulfillment of Jubilee and how legalism robs the church community of the joy Jubilee brings.
A Better Way is an exploration and critique of the traditional method of determining Bible authority and suggestions for a better approach to understanding the Bible.