Friday, June 1, 2018

The Christian and Cognitive Dissonance

The subject matter which I am going to discuss in a few moments is an explanation of a psychological effect which will have a significant effect on Christians in the days to come. In fact, it is already affecting many of them. While I deal with many doctrinal subjects, the main thrust of both my blogs is eschatology. With that in mind, I am sure most who have studied the subject of the end times in even the most minimal way will know that the one thing that is stressed over and over by Christ in the Olivet discourse, and what God warns us of in 2 Thessalonians 2 is that there will be great deception at the time of the end, which we are rapidly heading toward.

Matthew 24:4-5 “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”

Matthew 24:11 “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”

Matthew 24:23-26 “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.”

Mark 13:5-6 “And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Mark 13:21-23 “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.”

Luke 21:8 “And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.”

2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

The delusion God sends, the deceptions of the antichrist will be so great in fact, that even the elect, we Christians, have the potential to fall for the deceptions and fall away from the faith. Not possible you may say? Well, let’s take a look at what is going on these days and see how that might happen.

I think the one thing that all Christians should desire is to know truth. At least I believe we all would hope so. After all, Jesus says about Himself “...I am the way, the truth, and the life...” John 14:6 As Christ is the truth, if we are to be in a harmonious relationship with Him, we must desire truth above all else. God has said that He wants us to worship Him in truth and spirit. John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” Christ made a point of saying that people who are true worshippers are those who worship the Father in truth. The problem with truth, is that it is often very hard to accept, therefore most people do not want to know it. There is only one truth when it comes to God’s Word, but there are many disagreements as to what that truth is. And even worse, God warned us that in the last days, people – in particular Christians – would have itching ears and would not desire to know the truth. Therein lies the problem. 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;”

Most Christians attend church, and every church has its particular doctrines. If we have one view of Scripture and someone else has another view, we take a dim view of their view. (I know, I’m getting redundant with the word “view”). We will defend our view to the death if need be, and find ways (even ways that aren’t really kosher, if you’ll excuse the term) to disprove theirs. The problem with this is, we are not always right. In fact I have come to wonder if there is a church denomination that has all their doctrines actually proven by all of Scripture, not just the verses they pick and choose. I have yet to find one and I have attended a number of denominations. When it comes to doctrine, sometimes we are both right, sometimes we are right and they are wrong, sometimes we are wrong, and they are right, and sometimes we are both wrong. I have always wondered why scholars have not been able to come to a consensus of agreement on what God’s Word actually says, for God only has one truth, but I have recently been learning a lot about cognitive dissonance, and now realize that this is one (there are other reasons as well) of the reasons that a consensus cannot be reached. I have already seen techniques of hypnotism, persuasive speech, subliminal messaging, and what I call brainwashing (which may be just another name for these first three things working together) at work. Each of these things can lead people away from truth and so can cognitive dissonance. And each one of these things has become rampant in our world. So rampant that truth is becoming an almost impossible commodity to find these days. So what is a Christian to do? I’m sure the question in your mind is, “How does one find and hold on to the truth and know when they have been fed lies? How can we know that anything that anyone says is truth?” Good question.

Before discussing how this affects the church and Christians, if one wants to see what a mass eruption of cognitive dissonance looks like, then the reaction when President Trump was elected is the perfect example. If one can stand back and see the situation without a bias for or against the man, one finds that he was portrayed in the mainstream media as virtually another Hitler, because he is a master of persuasive speech, and admittedly he is quite arrogant and somewhat vulgar. (If these qualities make someone Hitler, then there are many more Hitler’s out there. Some in the pulpits of churches in fact.) He was going to destroy the country in the opinion of his opposition and they used the trigger word “dark” to manipulate people’s minds into seeing him the way they wanted him portrayed. This led people to attribute evil motives to everything he said or did. The word “dark” and therefore “evil” lodged in their minds with every story they heard, and especially if they listened to the media broadcasts put out by his opposition, whether true or false. The truth was not important to people, the frame of mind was.

Trump used the same psychological effect on Hillary calling her crooked Hillary, making everyone distrust her every action. If people are paying attention, they will find that he finds an appellation to apply to all those with whom he is in opposition, to try to get people to think as he wants them to think about that person. And each appellation has a logical reason behind it. Persuasive speech is part and parcel of politics, and he is a pro at it. This may come as a result of some natural ability and some study. People can learn to do this, and he was a businessman who needed to win at negotiations, so he became good at The Art of the Deal, as he named his book. I am not going to elaborate on the truth or fiction of either of these persons’ epithets, for that is not the point of this article. The fact is, for people who were easily swayed due to not researching the truth with an open mind, the appellation of “dark” was enough to cement in their minds what they should think of the person, whether true or false. In fact, as a result, some not only think Trump is Hitler, they believe he is the antichrist. This goes to show how successful this persuasive speech was in the minds of some people. The truth of his actions became irrelevant. The interpretation, exaggeration, or even suppression of the facts became the “truth” that was presented by the opposition (on both sides), so that minds would see what some wanted them to see. Every story would fill the preconceived and programmed mindset, except for those who were able to stand back and see the real truth.

When Trump won the election (unexpectedly on the part of many people, but not for those who understood what was happening), the left wing camp of the nation went berserk. Riots, violence, all sorts of things broke out. Colleges had to offer “safe spaces” with things like crayons and coloring books, puppies, and who knows what else, as these children were emotionally melting down. They had not expected Trump to win, and when he did, their minds couldn’t handle it. So he was labeled a Hitler and antichrist, and nothing he does, no matter how it may benefit the country, is worthy of credit in the eyes of those who believe he is “dark”. His actions that are not really morally defensible are portrayed as the vilest things that any president, nay any person has ever done (They have short memories of our other politicians and presidents.), and many epithets are attached to his name, even if not truly factual. So, those who bought into the persuasion became victims of a conspiracy by foreign nations instead of merely losing an election, and Hillary Clinton is still basically, a year and a half later, crying to anyone who will listen that she actually won and she can’t understand why nobody will believe her and put her in office. She has a severe case of cognitive dissonance. As far as many Christians are concerned, the end of the world has come and pre-trib rapturists are expecting to get out of here any minute now, because obviously the antichrist is here, and they are setting rapture dates left and right. Cognitive dissonance at its best. (Granted, every day brings us closer to the end of this age regardless of what happens, so these events should not concern or surprise us.)

If the term is unfamiliar to you, cognitive dissonance is basically when a person’s worldview (or in the Christian’s world also his theological view) is put in conflict with the evidence or facts to such a degree that their mind cannot handle it, so they create imaginary reasons to rationalize the incongruity between what they think and the facts with which they are faced. They will rewrite reality to even the absurd in order to preserve their beliefs as being right. They may also get very agitated and even angry, as we saw from the riots and violence that ensued after the election.

One of the methods of rationalization is to use what is called confirmation bias. This is to irrationally believe that the new fact or evidence actually supports the view, even when it doesn’t. Or on the other hand, it allows a person to ignore the facts that do not agree with their belief while accepting those that do agree, thereby thinking the new evidence supports their view. If you have ever wondered why a person is not understanding what you are saying when you disagree with them and are presenting facts that refute their belief, this may be part of the problem.

Let me give some examples of this. I believe (and have an article on this) that according to all of Scripture taken in context, a person can lose their salvation if they do not continue to abide in Christ and endure to the end of their life in a close relationship with Christ. There are many verses that will back this up, and I have the arguments provided for this in my article on the subject in my archives. I am only using this as an example of cognitive dissonance, as it was just recently an experience that I had which demonstrates the psychological phenomena. It is not a complete study on the subject of eternal security.

In my church I got into a discussion in Bible study over this, as the church’s doctrine says that you cannot lose your salvation. They believe once saved, always saved, and if you walk away, you were not saved to begin with. I pointed out a number of Scriptures that taught otherwise. (here I include some, but not all to which I referred). The responses were immediate denial and debating me over every Scripture I gave them. The more Scripture I presented, the more angst ridden they became. Here are just some of the Scriptures I presented, and below them are some of the answers given to rebut those verses.

1) the parable of the four seeds. (Matt. 13) Three of them accept the Word, but two of them are choked out due to either the lust of the world, or the trials of life. The second and third seed are different from the first who did not receive the seed, in that they did receive it. One endured for a while then walked away and wanted nothing more to do with it, and the other became unfruitful and was choked out.

In this case, I was told that the two seeds didn’t really accept the Lord. Period. They only had a “head knowledge”. The problem with this answer? God’s Word says differently. The second seed was received with joy and endures for a while until persecution and trials become too much. Then he walks away. The third grew until it became unfruitful and was choked out. Then he walks away. You can’t become unfruitful if you were never producing fruit to begin with. To become something, in this case unfruitful which is a negative, is a change in status and means that you had been the positive of this at one time, or fruitful. He had been bringing forth fruit at first. Nor can you receive and endure if you have never received. How would you endure at all without having received? It is God who gives us the strength to endure. The facts don’t fit their interpretation. Faced with Scripture that said the opposite of what was believed, it was changed in interpretation to support the held belief, even in the face of the fact that it did not support it.

2) the parable of the ten virgins. (Matt. 25) They were all virgins waiting for the groom, but five of them had not properly prepared to wait out the long wait, and so were shut out of the wedding.

Their answer – the five virgins were not really saved. They were tares, not wheat. How is one a virgin if one is not a virgin? In the context of spirituality, to be a virgin means to not worship any other god than God. Those who are spiritually dead belong to Satan. They are not virgins. A virgin is one who is spiritually pure – one who is redeemed by Christ’s blood. The problem is that they did not endure by preparing to wait until the end. They were scrambling to do what they should have been doing all along, making sure they were ready to go. Making their calling and election sure. Again, cognitive dissonance in that the facts did not support their belief, but they reinterpreted the facts to support their belief.
3) 2 Peter 1:10 “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:”
Their answer – Your calling and election are sure, but as good Christians we should walk in holiness. The problem? Why would you have to work to make your election sure, if it is sure? Why would Peter indicate that something could possibly make it unsure? There is an “if” involved here. If you give due diligence and do the things you should, you will never fall. Apparently the possibility exists that you can fall, as in fall away permanently, if you do not do the things you should. Why would this mean fall away and not just backslide for a brief time? Because just committing a sin can be forgiven as we know, so this is not speaking of that. The only thing that it can logically mean is that you can fall away permanently, if you are not abiding in Christ, otherwise, why say this at all? It makes no sense in the way they were trying to interpret it. The lack of logic in ignoring the “if-will” clause or thinking it is just a simple sin that one can repent is cognitive dissonance.

4) 2 Peter 2:20-21 “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.”

The answer was that the knowledge was not an intimate knowledge as in a relationship with Christ. It was just the kind of knowledge that the demons have – James 2:19 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The people mentioned were merely churchgoers and again tares. Where this answer falls down is in several places. First, it says that their knowledge of the Lord had allowed them to escape the pollutions of the world, but being entangled again in them would be worse than if they had never known the way of righteousness. How can a person who has not been saved actually know the way of righteousness? How can they be worse off after they pretend to be saved, than if they hadn’t pretended? There is no difference in their status at all spiritually, if they have not known the Lord intimately.

Second, the word “known” in these verses is a particular word for a particular type of knowledge. Because it is so special, it is only used a few times in the New Testament. It is the word “epiginosko” and means to be fully acquainted with, which indicates an intimate knowledge of someone. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we read “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” In the first case when we see the word “know”, the word is “ginosko” and it means to be aware of, to feel you understand.” Paul can only feel he understands God, as we see through a glass darkly. He can’t have a completely intimate understanding of everything having to do with God. But when we see the Lord face to face, then we shall know (epiginosko) every intimate detail of God, just as He knows (epiginosko) us. This knowledge speaks of having full intimate knowledge of, not just us of God, but it also describes how God knows us. God knows us better than we know ourselves. Clearly if we know God in the epiginosko way, it is speaking of the most intimate knowledge of another, which can only be achieved through accepting Christ as your Savior. There is no other way to know Christ intimately like this. Therefore when it says that if they are again entangled in the world, the latter state is worse than the first state, it is talking of going from belief back to unbelief. Why is this state worse? Because to have known God and turned from Him is worse than never having known Him at all. To go from not really knowing God to not really knowing God does not put you in a different state whatsoever. The latter state is no worse than the former, because they are the same. What is ironic, is that the pastor said of this verse that he knew that it “looked” as if the way I was interpreting it was correct, but I wasn’t correct. The cognitive dissonance got worse, the more verses I presented.

5) 1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

I don’t believe they had an answer for this one. They just ignored it. Paul says that if he does not keep himself under control and do as he should after preaching this to others, he himself could become a castaway. The word means to be rejected, a reprobate, or worthless. In other words, to be cut loose from God. Even Paul was worried that he could become rejected by God if he did not endure to the end. It’s no wonder they had no answer.

6) John 15:2a,6 “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:....If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

This was one that left them scrambling to answer. The explanation came that the person again had to be a pretender, as they weren’t producing fruit. Someone suggested that the fire was not the fire of hell, but that the fires were the refining fires of our works and that this referred to works being lost. Even the pastor could not go with that interpretation. I pointed out that nobody can be “in” Christ or in the vine unless they have actually accepted Christ. The determination to reconcile it was strong. The insistence was that the person could not have actually accepted Christ in spite of the “in” factor. They were just pretending to be grafted in, because real Christians have no choice but to produce fruit and good fruit at that. Really? No free will choice but to be a good Christian? Uh, not what I see, but okay. Have it your way.

7) Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

The answer to this was complete denial that the verse said what it said. Again it was insisted that the person did not actually know the Lord. The word “enlightened” was redefined as head knowledge, the word “tasted” meant attending church and therefore being familiar with the things of Christianity, the word “partakers” meant being in church and watching other Christians in their walk, the words “fall away” meant to simply quit going to church and the word “renew” meant that they had not accepted Christ, so they would not get into heaven. This is cognitive dissonance at its finest. The absurd length which they went to twist the very clear meaning of these verses showed how their brain could not handle it when faced with a truth that did not agree with their beliefs. What this verse says is that those who have received the spiritual enlightenment of having their eyes and ears opened to God and His Word, which only comes through accepting Him, those who have tasted for themselves what God’s gifts bring to their lives, because as children of God we receive certain blessings and gifts, those who have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, because you only partake of something if you actually make it a part of yourself or interact with it, if they turn their back on God and want nothing more to do with Him cannot have their repentance renewed. Their ignoring the very pertinent word “renew” was clearly a disassociation of their brain. You cannot renew something which has never existed to begin with. When you renew a contract, you have already had the contract in use and it has come to a conclusion and must be renewed to be valid again. To renew your relationship with Christ means that you once knew Him. This verse does not indicate that every sin will end up with your loss of salvation. It must be taken in context with the rest of Scripture and indicates that if you turn from God and deny Him, then there is no way to renew salvation, for it only comes through Christ and if you don’t want Him, there is nothing left to provide salvation.

8) Hebrews 10:26-31 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The answer to this was pretty much the same as #8. Denial that the verse said what it said. That this spoke of an intellectual knowledge only and that sanctification was not due to being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The problem with the head knowledge interpretation is that the word is the same kind of knowing that we saw in 2 Peter 2 (#4 above). It means full intimate knowledge of something. There is no question that this speaks of a true born again believer who is willfully turning from God. The verse used to “prove” this was not speaking of a true Christian focused the emphasis on the word “sanctified.” It was told to me that because Scripture says that when a saved woman marries an unsaved man, he and the children are considered sanctified for the sake of the children, this is the kind of sanctification spoken of here. That was a real stretch since the context is entirely different. Taking the verse totally out of context and misapplying it to another Scripture does not make it mean what they were saying it meant. The sanctification spoken of in the marriage condition did not mean salvation for the husband and children, which is what this verse in Hebrews is speaking about. It meant that God would consider the home as set aside for Him, because of the wife and would bless it because of her faith. In the verse in Hebrews, it is talking about personal sanctification, as a result of personal intimate knowledge of Christ and truth, which can only come through accepting Christ and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is talking about personal willful sin, after having received the knowledge and Holy Spirit. Then it speaks of God judging His people. People who are not saved, are not His people. This is speaking about a Christian.

So with every new fact, every verse that proved the point I was making, the cognitive dissonance grew and denial became more and more absolute. Truth was not important. Preserving the stability of the brain became of paramount importance, and the brain chose to interpret the facts in a way that would not cause distress or confusion. This is not an aberration. This is what our brain will do when we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to try to teach us truth. The brain will always seek out reconciliation and peace of mind, even at the cost of truth, unless you choose to let God have His way and show you truth.

Another method of cognitive dissonance is to filter the information through a lens that dictates their worldview. What does not fit in the picture gets filtered out, so that explanation is unnecessary. If it is inescapable to have to accept the fact for some reason, then as a last resort the person will find a way to show how their belief was misinterpreted and therefore it was not wrong, it was just misunderstood and can be rewritten with as much of the original belief saved as possible to fit the new information which must be accommodated.

An easy example of this is the myriad of rapture dates that have been set, have come, and have passed. Everyone setting these dates are filtering out the information in the Bible that tells us that the rapture cannot come until certain events have occurred. When the date comes and passes with no rapture, there is an immediate scramble to explain how their math was a little off, or they accidentally had a little misunderstanding of a particular verse or even word. And they set another date accommodating the new information. You would think these people would realize their mistake in trying to set a date to begin with, but they don’t, even after multiple failures. They have a certain expectation set in their mind, and they have to fulfill it. To point out their error, that Scripture does not back them up only leads them into denial and in fact, they never really accept that they were wrong, they simply had a little error in their calculations. Cognitive dissonance at work.

So what has this to do with the church and why should it affect a Christian? Well, I’m sure it is obvious to everyone from the examples above, but to reiterate, God has one truth, but Satan has created many versions on that truth. Versions which will deceive even the elect. That one truth is crucial to how one approaches the end times, which I feel we are on the verge of entering. To not know the truth, to not have that grounding when nothing but lies come at you from every direction, will allow cognitive dissonance to occur when things do not take place as expected. That cognitive dissonance is the very thing which will lead to people being deceived and falling away from the faith. God warns us that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6. What knowledge do you suppose He is speaking about? His Word of course. Truth in the form of God’s Word is the anchor which will keep us grounded and faithful when everything around us no longer makes any sense and we can’t tell heads from tails.

To show some of my own journey with cognitive dissonance, regular readers of my blog will have already discerned that I am a proponent of the last trumpet rapture. Just as background I was raised a pre-tribber. Then I was made familiar with the teaching of mid-trib, the post-trib, and then many years later, I was introduced to the pre-wrath rapture. In the beginning I merely accepted, as most people do, what I was taught as the truth (since everybody believes their denominational theology is the only right one and the only one with the entire truth), but as I started to study the Scriptures without the use of the denominationally approved theological commentaries to guide and bias my thought processes, I soon discovered a great many discrepancies between what God’s Word said and what I was taught. I began to experience cognitive dissonance, but being a person who was addicted to mysteries, I couldn’t just walk away from the problems I found. I had to solve them. So I started investigating the other two less held versions to see if they provided less difficulties. I still discovered too many discrepancies to accept those theories and experienced more cognitive dissonance which I had to overcome. I knew that God’s Word, when rightly divided, does not leave us with these discrepancies, so continued to look for answers. Some years later I found that the pre-wrath theory brought me much closer to the truth. The process to get to this point had been extremely painful. It was like having the rug pulled out from under me. How could I trust anything that they were teaching? But by now I was so determined to find the truth that I was shutting down the cognitive dissonance in favor of accepting truth, even in the face of that being painful. Pre-wrath seemed really good, but something still continued to nag at me that this was not correct either, as there were a few passages that I still could not reconcile, as hard as I might try. Finally one day I just started praying and praying for truth no matter how hard it may be to accept, no matter how painful. When I finally put truth above all else, it allowed God to show me the truth. The rapture is just where Paul told us it was, where Christ told us it was, and where John told us it was - at the last trumpet, the seventh trumpet in Revelation. Finally all of those pesky verses that I could not reconcile fell into place like the pieces of a puzzle. It all made sense. But the revelation of that truth brought a whole new set of concerns. Not for myself, but for other Christians. The knowledge of how unprepared they were, like those five virgins, and knowing that those virgins got shut out of the wedding, became a real burden on my heart.

If as God’s Word tells us, we are to go through the great tribulation, there would be an abundance of deception going on. Christ did warn us several times during the Olivet Discourse to not be deceived, and to not run after men that people claimed were Him. If there were no chance of Christians being deceived, why would Christ make such a point of warning us not once, but several times over. And if the antichrist is so easily dismissed as the real Messiah, as most Christians expect he will be in their eyes, why warn us to not run after men who were calling themselves the returned Jesus? We should not believe it, should we? We can’t be deceived can we? Apparently the deception will be very, very convincing. In fact the delusion is sent by God Himself and people who have not believed the truth will believe the lie. 2 Thess. 2:11-12 “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

For people who are expecting a completely different scenario, whether pre-trib, mid-trib, or pre-wrath, cognitive dissonance might actually make them unable to accept the truth, and they will be deceived and fall away. This is the extreme danger of this phenomena. While one might believe that a post-trib believer could not be deceived, as they expect to go through the great tribulation and see the antichrist, I have found that among the post-tribbers and pre-wrath too for that matter, they erroneously believe that because they are Christians they are automatically going to be supernaturally protected during this time, due to the promise to the Philadephians. The deception in this is that 1) the time of great tribulation is not God’s wrath, therefore no Christian is exempt from persecution, and millions of Christians will die, many who are not prepared to do so and 2) only the Philadephians (and maybe not even all of them), out of seven churches are given this promise. The other six churches are not given any promise at all to escape what lies ahead. The Smyrnans, who are faithful Christians with no condemnation from Christ are all martyred. The Thyatirans are told “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.” Rev. 2:22. The phrase “great tribulation” is only used three times in the Bible and each time it refers to that time when antichrist will rule. Instead of being promised to be protected the other six churches are told what their eternal rewards will be if they are “overcomers.” So what is meant by “overcomer”?

In Revelation 12:11 we are told that Christians “overcome” the beast by their deaths. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” The saints overcome Satan not be being protected. They overcome him by not loving their lives up to death. To be an overcomer means to remain faithful to the Lord by the power of His blood and endure to the end even in the face of death by martyrdom. Rev. 14:13 “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

My greatest fear for the Church, and here I must say it is mainly the Laodicean American Church who do not believe God would ever let them suffer (the churches in the rest of the world know better as they are dying every day for their faith), is that when they are faced with the fact that there was no rapture to get them out of here before the antichrist starts killing them, they will go into cognitive dissonance and deny that this is what is happening. They will rationalize and reinterpret and make excuses and believe the lie, which will jeopardize their very salvation. Not wanting to have truth more than comfort will leave them vulnerable and frightened beyond their ability to cope. And there seems to be no way to cut through this cognitive dissonance that I have found. For God to show someone the truth, they have to desire it, and as He said, people have itching ears. They don’t want bad news. They want good news. They want the easy way out, because they have been living the easy Christianity. One that is full of the good life, entertainment, loose rules, carnal pleasures, and false promises of once saved always saved and eternal security, not holy living and self-sacrifice, with the Ten Commandments as a guide.

While politics and religion will only walk hand in hand when our Savior is king, looking at what has happened in America from the political upheaval is a forewarning of what will happen in Christianity when the expected does not transpire and the unexpected, which was considered an impossibility, does. As the left had a melt-down, so will many Christians when Christ does not return on their schedule. The parable of the Ten Virgins becomes far more meaningful when you realize that the point of the parable is that we will be waiting much longer for His return than some are expecting to wait. Those who understand that the wait will be longer and are prepared for it will enter into the wedding. Those who are not prepared – well, you can read the parable for yourself in Matthew 25.

So the question at the beginning was, “How do I learn truth and avoid deception?” The answer is not an easy one. It is not an easy one, because it requires an enormous amount of work. The work it requires is getting your Bible out and without the commentaries, without following someone’s preconceived bias, ask God to show you the truth and learn at His feet. That is one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit. He was to lead us into truth. John 16:13 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” We are told the Spirit will show us things to come. In other words, the truth of the prophecies which we should be studying (Revelation has a blessing on those who read and heed the book) will be given to us by the Holy Spirit. Not by Joe Shmoe, the such and such denominational father whom everyone reveres. Joe Shmoe may not have been guided by the Spirit when he was studying, so you shouldn’t take his word for everything without checking like a good Berean. Be prepared to take God’s Word at face value. He actually wrote things in a way so that you would understand, believe it or not. Prophecy in particular is not for private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20) The only way to avoid that is to take it at face value, no matter how unreal or bizarre it may seem at first. Reality may be far more “unreal” than you presently believe. Much of the truth of reality (the entire spiritual world) is hidden from our view, but the Bible tells us all about it. It requires letting go of preconceived ideas and biases and just accepting the truth no matter how hard it is to accept. The blessing in all of that? When Christ said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” He was not being facetious. Letting go of false views to embrace truth will be the most freeing thing you will ever experience. I can say that from experience. At first it is devastating. I will also admit that, but the more you accept truth, the easier it becomes to accept more truths, and the joy that comes with knowledge, the knowledge that keeps you from being destroyed as God predicted in Hosea, is a wondrous thing. Being forewarned and forearmed and prepared is a blessing. God’s Word will anchor you in truth when all else is nothing but lies. The truth will make lies ring like a bell in your head when you hear them. The truth will allow you to see subtle manipulations of semi-truths. The truth will set and keep you free from all the mind control in the world.

2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Will The Real Antichrist Please Stand Up.

It seems that many are now claiming that Donald Trump is the antichrist. Before that, it was Obama, and before that it was Clinton, and some have said it is one of the Bushes (I don’t know that it matters which one). Some said it was Reagan, some JFK, some Prince Charles or one of his sons, Prince William or Prince Harry. Some say it is Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, or Erdogan, or Putin, or Solana, or any other of a dozen candidates. Some even say it will be Hitler reincarnated or rather brought back from the dead.

While speculation runs rampant, and in and of itself if kept under control there is no problem with speculation, there is a danger in participating in it in a more than speculative way. Herein lies the problem, and I will use a recent episode I experienced to show what that problem is. In the case of the hypothesis that the antichrist is Donald Trump, I had the unfortunate experience of “running into online” shall we say, a person who says he has written a book on Donald Trump (which he was unashamedly hawking in the most overt manner on someone else’s blog). He claimed that unequivocally and without error, Trump is THE antichrist of the Bible, and that he can show Scripturally why that is so. This person boasted repeatedly that no book had ever been written on the antichrist that is anything like his book. (There have been many books, articles, blogs, videos, etc. on the antichrist which he called “pap and drivel”.)

He made the claim that his is unparalleled among other writings and self-promoted his book nearly every other sentence, telling people if they wanted truth, they needed to buy it for they would get the truth nowhere else, yet he claimed to not be in it for the money. He belittled the person who wrote the article (blog) saying that the author didn’t understand Scripture, was wrong (the only thing the author said was that Trump did not Scripturally fit all the aspects of the antichrist and therefore was unlikely to be him), and needed to study the way in which he (the boaster) did. [Note: It so happens that the author of the article is very scholarly, very humble, very circumspect and careful about what he says, and always leaves room for flexibility in what he teaches, so that he does not state anything that cannot be absolutely proven as a fact. He leaves room for his own error in understanding and is extraordinarily patient with people who are nasty to him. I have seen very few prophecy teachers of his excellence.] Further this person was condescending and taunting to others who dared challenge his boasting by using Scripture to point out errors in his assertion, which he then mocked and rejected, patronizing them also, calling himself a martyr (yes, he literally called himself a martyr) for the cause of promoting this “truth.” It was a display of the most obnoxious unChristian arrogance and was very off-putting. He said his path was a lonely one. I have no trouble understanding why. Hopefully no non-Christians will read the article and see his comments for it leaves a bad taste in the mouth for Christians. We all have our moments when unfortunately we lose sight of being loving in our answers, but this went on and on and on. I have run into this same attitude in others who are promoting Trump as the antichrist or other truths which they have come by during their “revelations” through dreams and visions, which bear no resemblance to Scriptural truths. In the case of Trump, their hatred of him is palpable and coupled with this attitude of “I can’t be wrong, because God chose me for special revelation” it creates a serious problem, along with declaring to know truths that nobody can discern from Scripture, as there is not enough information. Speculation is one thing. Declarative truths on the other hand, which cannot be backed up by Scripture is another. It is Satan using Christians to mock God’s Word and other Christians. This should not be.

What I found interesting in the comments written by this person, was that it was not Scripture that he offered as proof (I don’t know what his book offers), but facts like Trump’s mother’s name was Mary, he had an aunt named Elizabeth, and a cousin named John. (I have no idea if that is true or not.) That when he was born there was a “blood moon” (I have no idea if that is true or not also.), and a host of other inane and unimportant data about Trump, none of which has any bearing on the beast, as it is not found in Scripture that these things are a criteria for the antichrist. His reasoning was that since antichrist is a mockery and imitation of Christ that these things mean something. Well, they don’t. They might be interesting facts, but they actually mean nothing concerning the antichrist, as far as Scripturally identifying him goes. I am sure in many families that tend toward using Bible names for their children, and looking at the generation when these names were popular, you will find this a common thing. I have known more Johns in my life than I can even count. And plenty of Marys and Elizabeths as well. It proves nothing. Nor does anyone having a boastful or arrogant personality prove they are the antichrist. That description could be applied to literally thousands of leaders and even applies to the person writing this book. So far out of twenty-four comments, some which were lengthy and supposed to be quotes from his book, he quoted one verse of Scripture. Not exactly a recommendation for his book or his proof.

The reason I am going into such a description of this person's behavior is because we need to be careful to whom we listen and what they are saying and be Bereans. An attitude of arrogant  boastfulness, and mockery should be a red flag at the beginning to make one check what someone says. As I said above, we all sometimes get pushed too far and have our moments, but it should not continue on and on and on. It is true that not all personalities are alike, but when one claims uniqueness in being the only purveyor of God’s truth, it is time for caution. Someone may actually have a new idea on interpretation, which one can check to see if viable, but Scripture is the only truth and it is unlikely that one person, whose knowledge is questionable and who offers coincidences and a lot of talk as proof rather than Scripture, is the only person with truth. Scripture is the only plumb line for what someone says. Interesting but irrelevant facts, biased attitudes, personal feelings, these are not the foundation of good theology. They might provide interesting speculation, but nothing more.

While I have not encountered a lot of people quite as boastful, there seem to be a lot of people out there who feel that they have had a “revelation” from God which then leads them to pick and choose some Scriptures, some out of context even, and apply them to a person of their choosing and then state that they have God’s truth on the matter that this person is the antichrist. This has been going on for 2000 years since Christ left, and to date, nobody has been correct. Why is that?

Well, other than it is not time yet, the thing which I chose to point out to this person was something which he and all these others who claim to have discovered the antichrist seem to miss or simply reject. The Bible, the one place we can look to for the absolute truth on the information on whom the antichrist will be, says that the beast or antichrist comes out of the bottomless pit or abyss. Revelation 11:7And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.” Revelation 17:8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” So it seems that the Bible tells us that the antichrist is not any human being themselves. He is a powerful demonic entity, but not Satan, as some believe. That would explain why he is the eighth head or king, and yet is of the seven. Revelation 17:10-11And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.” If the demonic beast inhabited and controlled each of these seven kings, then that would explain how the eighth person could be “of the seven.” The connecting factor between these eight people are that they were (seven were, one will be) all possessed by this beast. He was each one of them. While we may refer to the eight people as their human host (for instance Hitler seems to have been the eighth), the reality is, the person himself is no longer in control. They are not the beast themselves, they simply let him have their bodies as his host.

The truth of the matter is, it is irrelevant whom the person who is possessed is, for that person is not the person in charge of the body. That person no longer exists, so to speak, because the beast will be the person in charge. It matters not whether the person is boastful or powerful or charismatic beforehand, for that person will not be the person who is speaking and acting once the beast takes over. They will merely be the body which the beast uses to do his purposes. He will not be a silent partner. He will be the one who is boasting, who is arrogant, who shakes his fist in God’s face. The descriptions in the Bible belong to him. In Revelation 13:12 it says,And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.The indication is possibly that the person whom the beast inhabits will have been killed and raised from the dead. This might very well indicate that what the beast inhabits is really a corpse which he keeps alive and the person himself is no longer living.

The point here that I am trying to make is this; it could be anybody, for the very character traits which are described in Scripture are the traits of the beast, not necessarily of the person he will possess. Could that person also be like that? Of course. Could it be one of the many candidates listed? Of course. But he, the person he is now, is not the beast. The beast is a demonic entity which will be allowed to come back up out of the abyss where he has been chained for the time being, and he will take over someone’s body. So in pointing to any person on the scene now, and calling them THE antichrist, or the beast, is bearing false witness against them. They may be an antichrist, for there are many antichrists out there, people who are against Christ, but when it comes to the beast, none of them are the actual beast himself. Even if their body gets possessed by the beast, and someone eventually will be, that person himself is not THE antichrist. The beast is the antichrist. The person controlled is the puppet. Without the beast, they could not achieve what will be achieved. They are just a necessary tool for the beast to be incarnated.

So we need to stop pointing fingers and accusing people, no matter how boastful, arrogant, or unlikable they are, nor where they come from, nor their ethnic roots, etc. People need to stop declaring that they have the truth on something which nobody can know for certain at this point in time (and some declare that it is they alone who know for certain due to “revelation” and I have heard this from people who think it is Bush, Kushner, Prince Charles and Solana, not just Trump). If one does put forth a candidate, they must do it with great circumspection and uncertainty and not treat those who disagree with mockery and condescension. That the person he possesses no doubt will have had congress with Satan is probably true, for all of those possessed before the last beast have been ungodly people and to take over someone who is alive, there must be previous interaction with Satan which provides permission for their body to be taken. However, as we cannot know in advance who that might be out of the many people who are ungodly, we need to stop bearing false witness and declaring someone as antichrist so far in advance. When he arrives, we will know it. Then there will be no question in anyone’s mind. And truly, is it important that we know in advance? No. Should we study and know what he will do and how he will act? Yes. So that when he does those things, we will then know who he is presenting himself as. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. His identity will present itself when we see him do the things prophesied in Scripture. But none of those things will happen until we get to the end – to Daniel’s 70th week, and we simply aren’t there yet.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Spring Holy Days of the Gentile Christian Church Are Not Scriptural

As I write this, a couple weeks ago the world celebrated Mardi Gras (known by other names in other countries) and Ash Wednesday, then embarked upon Lent leading up to Easter. As many churches celebrate all of these holidays, Catholic and Protestant alike, it is important to take a look at these holidays and see if they are Biblical in nature or not.

Beginning with the first of the holidays in this list, we have Mardi Gras. Mardi is the French word for Tuesday, and gras means “fat.” In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” This name comes in part from the food that was consumed leading up to and including the day. Mardi Gras is a tradition that dates back thousands of years (pre-Christianity) to pagan celebrations heralding the arrival of spring, the hope of fertility, and the renewal of life. In the spring, the god who was so feted was Lupercus and the Romans named this festival "Lupercalia" in his honor. This festival was a raucous, drunken orgy with much merrymaking. It was held in Rome in February after which time the participants would then fast for forty days.  When Christianity arrived in Rome, and pagans converted, they did not want to give up their popular holidays. Think of how modern Christians resist the idea of forsaking Christmas, which has become a very secularized holiday, actually has no Scriptural basis, and in fact is based on a pagan holiday. Nobody wants to do it. It is a fun holiday on which we paste a Christian veneer and the deeply ingrained tradition is not something that people easily want to part with, even if it is not actually Bible based.  Neither did the people of Rome want to give up their holidays. As it seemed impossible to separate the people from their traditions, along with many other compromises such as renaming the pagan statues for Christian "saints" (Zeus became Peter), turning the vestal virgins into nuns, keeping the Babylonian priesthood of the Pontifex Maximus and cardinals, and etc., religious leaders decided to incorporate and Christianize these pagan traditions into the new faith, which was an easier method of transitioning without rebellion than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the debauchery and excesses of  Lupercalia, now renamed Mardi Gras, became a prelude to the newly re-purposed and renamed period of Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The period is now said to be in commemoration of Christ's 40 days of fasting in the wilderness (actually Lent is 46 days in length as they don't count the Sundays). As Christianity spread to other European countries and from there to the other continents via missionary work of the church, so did Mardi Gras and its accompanying Lenten period.

Just as today people don masks and costumes (or merely go nude), the Romans also donned masks, dressed in costumes, and indulged in all the depraved carnal pleasures, as they gave themselves to Bacchus (god of wine) and Venus (goddess of love). The purpose of the masks and costumes were to disguise their identities so as to be able to anonymously engage in sexual misconduct, which they normally would not be able to do. Under the "influence of Bacchus," all kinds of debauchery was allowed. Today in New Orleans, they have a celebrity pose as Bacchus for the big parade as all sorts of debauched, depraved, and usually drunken people strut their naked or almost naked bodies,  engaging in lewd behavior and public sexual activities both hetero and homosexual. Woman flashing their naked breasts and crotch, and men their genitals is very common among all the tourists who come for the festivities.

The word carnival, another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, also derives from this feasting tradition: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat, from the Latin carnem for meat. Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the rich, fatty foods—meat, eggs, milk, lard, cheese—that remained in their homes, in anticipation of several weeks of eating only fish and different types of fasting. Hence the name "Fat Tuesday" or in French "Mardi Gras."

While there is more history attached to Mardi Gras, I believe this is enough to show the origins of the festival and the tone it sets.  In New Orleans, January 6 kicks off three things - Twelfth night, Epiphany, and the start of Carnival season which continues up to Mardi Gras. During this time, people live as carnally as possible in anticipation of the six weeks of fasting (whatever they choose to fast, it doesn't have to be food). Then, beginning twelve days before Fat Tuesday, nightly parades are held, which get bigger and more elaborate as the big festival day approaches. These parades are a mix of many things celebrating the sinful pleasures of life. In the final week, festivities intensify in New Orleans and surrounding communities, culminating in the biggest parades. Mardi Gras is so popular that it is accepted as a holiday in some parts of the South. On Mardi Gras, the revelry in New Orleans is non-stop with drunkenness, unbridled sexual activity including people having sex with strangers, and all kinds of perversions. Ash Wednesday is known as Trash Wednesday in New Orleans due to the filthiness of the streets.

The next holiday in this list of spring holy days is Ash Wednesday. This ritual “imposition of the ashes” is purportedly in imitation of the repentant act of covering oneself in dust and ashes as was done in the Bible. While Mardi Gras and Lent started much earlier in the church's history, Ash Wednesday was a later addition to the Christian liturgical calendar, first appearing in the tenth century according to historical records written in the eleventh century. Or rather its Christian practice dates to then. The putting on of ashes on Ash Wednesday goes back to the Norse practice, several hundred years earlier when it was done to celebrate the deeds of Sigurd, the hero of the Volsung Saga, a character perhaps better known as Siegfried from the Ring of the Nibelung.

In the pre-Christian Norse religion, the laying of ashes (ashes being representative of Sigurd), was meant to grant the Norse God Odin’s protection to a Viking warrior in battle. When the Vikings raided coastal towns in western and Mediterranean Europe they brought their beliefs and practices with them, included the laying of ashes on a Wednesday–Odin‘s Day–(another name for Odin is Woden, hence Woden's Day or Wednesday) which the Christian Church appropriated and inserted as a barrier between Mardi Gras and the Lenten period.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a sign of mourning and repentance. This is done in the shape of a cross. It's supposed to be a day of fasting, mourning, and penance. It might have the appearance of godliness, but it's not at all Biblical.  Disfiguring one's face to imply fasting is in direct violation of Christ's directive which was to not disfigure the face but to wash our faces and not let anyone know we are fasting.

"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;  That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:16-18.

The next thing in this list of liturgical events is Lent. As Lent was officially instituted by the Catholic church, I will let them define its purpose. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ… One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.”

So, according to the Catholic church, the purpose of Lent is to purify ourselves through self-denial and prayer, and make God’s Kingdom come. There are obviously some serious problems with this. First of all, no amount of good works, whether self-denial, prayer, fasting, abstinence, or any other work can purify us from sin. We cannot purify ourselves. Nor will it put within us a desire to do God's will or make God's Kingdom come. The only thing that purifies us is the blood of Jesus Christ. And the only way to receive that is through repentance and confessing Him as the Son of God and our Savior. And God's Kingdom will only come on earth when Christ returns. All of our works are like filthy rags, if we do them through our own efforts. Only those things done through Christ are of any merit, and even those do not grant salvation. They only gain us rewards in heaven, and keep our relationship with God in good standing.

Paul had this to say about self-denial. “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,  (Touch not; taste not; handle not;  Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?  Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” Colossians 2:20-23.
Lent is a doctrine of men that insists upon denying the flesh for the purpose of purifying yourself. As you cannot purify yourself, what is the point of this type of fast? Fasting is Scriptural, but it seems to be taught that it is in conjunction with prayer, for the purpose of focusing more acutely on the prayer to show God your sincerity and draw you closer to Him. It isn't to show God how you are trying to balance out the sins you have indulged in during Carnival and Mardi Gras through period of self-denial. 

So, where did the observance of Lent come from? We know that the people fasted for 40 days after Lupercalia, but is there an origin older than that from which they got the practice? The Babylonians had a tradition of weeping, fasting, and mourning for Tammuz which is very similar to Lent, and some have speculated that this might be the actual origin of Lent. In fact, the prophet Ezekiel saw a vision about people mourning over Tammuz at the Temple in Jerusalem. "Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD's house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.  Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these." Ezekiel 8:14-15.

It is interesting that one of the Babylonian practices was to cross oneself in the shape of a "T" as a sign of Tammuz. One can see this remnant of Babylonianism in the practice of Catholics crossing themselves when they genuflect. The "T", originally a sign of Tammuz and which is now said to be the sign of the cross, is also the mark put upon people's foreheads when they receive the ashes on Ash Wednesday.

In A.D. 360, the Catholic Church at the Council of Laodicea officially commanded the observance of Lent and the people celebrated Mardi Gras (or whatever name you wish to call it by) to prepare for Lent. So the Roman church established this practice 300 years after Messiah’s death and resurrection. None of these practices have their origins in the Bible. They all seem to have their origins in paganism. And the church commanded the observance of two of these. Ash Wednesday and Lent. The Bible tells us what the commandments of men are to Him. "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctines the commandments of men." Mark 7:7. God sees it all as in vain. It means nothing to Him except to be useless. We should not be adding celebrations that have their origins in paganism to our traditions.

While it is said that Lent is 40 days, in commemoration of Christ, it is actually 46 days. The Sundays are not included. I would like to know why that is. Is it because the original pagan day of Lupercalia was not 40 days before what became Easter, and so to make it fit the timeline, so they could put the Christian veneer over it, they just decided to not count the Sundays? Why of all days would you not fast on the day you go to worship God? (For anyone who follows my blog, you know that I don't believe Sunday is the correct day of worship anyhow. The Sabbath is, but the church celebrates it as if it were the Sabbath.)

While in the beginning people fasted food, which is the only kind of fast that I have found in the Bible, it has devolved into people "fasting" things which are almost meaningless, so that they don't really miss what they "fast." For instance, I know someone who decided to "fast" their online internet games. This person is not Catholic, she is a Protestant (some Protestants do observe this liturgical practice), born again Christian, as far as I know. I cannot understand why she does not see the trivial way she is celebrating it, if she is going to celebrate it. Does she really think that Christ cares about giving up forty days of online games? How exactly is that going to bring her closer to Christ? I do not doubt her sincerity, but I do doubt her discernment.

In his book The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop says:

"Let any one only read the atrocities that were commemorated during the 'sacred fast' or Pagan Lent, as described by Arnobius and Clemens Alexandrinus, and surely he must blush for the Christianity of those who, with the full knowledge of all these abominations, 'went down to Egypt for help' to stir up the languid devotion of the degenerate church, and who could find no more excellent way to 'revive' it, than by borrowing from so polluted a source; the absurdities and abominations connected with which the early Christian writers had held up to scorn. That Christians should ever think of introducing the Pagan abstinence of Lent was a sign of evil; it showed how low they had sunk, and it was also a cause of evil; it inevitably led to deeper degradation. Originally, even in Rome, Lent, with the preceding revelries of the carnival, was entirely unknown...."

Alexander von Humboldt, a German explorer of the early 19th century wrote of the practice among the pagans in Mexico being held in the spring, the following:

"Three days after the vernal equinox…began a solemn fast of forty days in honour of the sun." The idea of fasting forty days was a common pagan practice that evolved on separate continents. And it was done in honor of the sun in this case. Sun worship is really just another name for worshiping Satan.

It was also celebrated in Egypt, according to John Landseer in his Sabean Researches. He wrote that a period of forty days was held in honor of Osiris. As the Egyptian religion was the descendant of Babylonianism from Nimrod and Semiramis (Tower of Babel), as were the pagan religions of the other countries of the world, we should not be surprised to see this as a common ritual in all of them.

There is a spiritual undertone which indicates the spirit behind these traditions. Christ made it clear in John 4:23-24 how we are to worship. " But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Riotous debauchery, followed by a pagan practice and mock repentance is not it.  This is no more than ritual religious observance with, for a great majority of its practitioners, no real conviction behind it. It is lacking the vital element required by God. It lacks truth.

In 1 Peter 1:13-16 we are told "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."

We are not to fashion ourselves after the manner of the pagans or imitate them, but we are to be holy. Being holy means to be set apart and different from the rest of the world. If we are indulging in pagan traditions, which are an abomination to God, how exactly are we being holy?

We have to be very, very careful about taking man-made traditions and elevating them to the level of God-ordained holy days, especially when they have pagan roots. In Matthew 15:3, Christ says, "But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"  The Pharisees and scribes had incorporated all kinds of traditions and imposed them on the people. Traditions which not only were unBiblical in origin, but were anti-Biblical in nature. They actually transgressed the laws of God. It is no surprise that Christ seriously objected to this. In the same chapter in verses 6b-9, He said, "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." These traditions make the commandments of God to be of no effect. It renders them null and void. Mark 7:9,13 "And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.....Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye."  The consequences of following man-made religious traditions in place of worshiping God in truth is also addressed by Christ.  Matthew 23:15 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."  Traditions are not just harmless rituals. They can actually drive us away from God.

Additionally, God prefers a different kind of fast than one that is strictly ritual and not heartfelt. Isaiah 58:5-7 says, "Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"
Lastly the holy day of Easter has to be addressed. Before even getting into that, the very name itself screams paganism. As much as is known, which is not a great deal, Eostre, or Ostara as she was also known, was a pagan goddess of Germanic origin. Eostre is traced back to a "goddess of the dawn." As the goddess of the dawn, the sunrise was an important part of the celebrations, as were bonfires, eggs, and rabbits for the spring fertility rituals. This goddess was apparently starting to take a back seat when Christianity came along, but as with all things ingrained in a populous, some remnants remained, and the name "Easter" and the associations were added to the paschal season. We have sunrise services, Easter eggs, and chocolate bunnies.

In addition to the above associations, the timing of Easter was decided by the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 to be the first Sunday after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox. If we are to observe the Feast of Firstfruits, which is the correct feast day, which became the resurrection day of Christ when He fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits, it would be the Sunday after Passover, which is the 15th of Nissan or Aviv, the first month of the ecclesiastical year in Judaism. As the first of the month is determined by the new moon, and the new moon is two weeks away from the full moon, the 15th of the month would end up being in the relative same time frame as the full moon. And as the month of Nissan falls in the spring, it would also fall around the vernal equinox. So it is common that Passover and Easter fall around the same time, and most often fall in the same week, but the factors determining the dates are not the same, so there can be times when they do not fall at the same time.

Passover is determined by God's instructions. Easter is determined by association with the occult importance of the vernal equinox and full moon. They just happen to coincide most of the time. When it happens that they do not, because Judaism often inserts an extra month in their calendar every so many years, Easter does not fall on the Feast of Firstfruits. Easter's date of observance therefore has more to do with the pagan celebration of Eostre than the Feast of Firstfruits. This is not the way it should be. As the resurrection was the fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits, it should always occur on the Sunday after Passover. So are we celebrating a day which is not always really the right day? And should we be celebrating Passover as a part of this instead of ignoring it as a Jewish holiday? What does the Word of God say on the issue.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."  Exactly what feast is Paul speaking about? Easter was not a feast that the disciples celebrated. Passover was the feast they celebrated. And it seems that Paul is telling us to keep the feast - the feast of Passover - for the reference is that Christ is our passover.  Is the day of resurrection also to be celebrated? As it already existed as a feast day in Judaism - the Feast of Firstfruits, yes, it is also to be celebrated. But we have forgotten to celebrate Passover, relegating it to the trash as a Jewish holy day, not a Christian one. Instead we celebrate Good Friday (if you can call it celebrating), which even in that there is dispute that Jesus died on Friday, as that does not allow for three days and nights in the grave. It would be much better for us to celebrate Passover which contains all the significance of His death on the cross.

When Christ ate the Last Supper with the disciples, He was celebrating the Passover seder. When He picked up the cup and said "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins," He was actually renaming the third cup that is drunk in the Passover Seder - the cup known as the Cup of Redemption. (There are four cups, each with a different meaning.) When He broke the bread and ate it, He was breaking the bread known as the afikomen (see note below on afikomen). Both are important parts of the seder meal. What He was doing was re-purposing and renaming two of the Passover elements, not creating a new tradition with all the other elements removed. It was the same tradition, but with new meaning. Men are the ones who have changed the tradition by removing those two things from their original source. We have lost much of the meaning and significance of what He did and said at the Passover by removing those two elements from the seder and making them a la carte. He said that when we drank the cup (the cup of redemption of the Passover) and when we ate the bread (of afikomen), we were to do so in remembrance of Him. But people don't realize that it is the Cup of Redemption and they don't know the bread is the bread of the afikomen and what those two things mean within the seder.

[Afikomen- during the Passover seder, three pieces of matzoh are placed in a bag with three compartments. At a point early in the seder, the middle piece of matzoh is taken out and broken in half. Half is put back in the bag, and the other half is wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden or buried to be found (resurrected) later in the seder. When searched for and found, the matzoh is broken into pieces for the guests at the seder to share and is eaten. To the Jews, this is a ritual for which they really don't have an explanation, but as Christians we can see the significance. The three pieces of matzoh stand for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The middle matzoh, the Son, is taken out and broken (for our sins) and it is wrapped in a cloth and "buried." When found (resurrected) it is eaten by those celebrating the Passover. This is the ritual that Christ observed with the disciples when He broke the bread and said, "Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you."]

Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 "And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." As often as we drink the Cup of Redemption from the Passover seder and as often as we partake of the afikomen, we do so in remembrance of Him, which means, we were expected to continue to observe the Passover, but in a Messianic way, the way Christ did at the last Passover. And then we were to observe the Feast of Firstfruits in remembrance of Christ being the firstfruit of the resurrection. This is the way it was intended for us to celebrate Christ's death and resurrection. How much more deeply significant is spending the time at a Passover observance going through the Scriptures, singing songs, and partaking of the lengthy seder meal with all of its meanings, instead of celebrating with an Easter basket full of eggs and bunnies and going to a church service. Look at what we have lost. The most moving celebration I ever had at this time of year was when I partook of a Messianic Passover seder. And one does not serve ham (which was an unclean animal and therefore not acceptable to the Jews) at a Passover seder. The meat of choice is Lamb, for the Lamb of God. Even the meat has a spiritual significance which we have abandoned in favor of serving one of the forbidden meats of the Old Testament. Considering that the meat has spiritual application, what does it say that many Christians serve it on Easter in place of Lamb?

That the early church, before Rome changed so many of the traditions by compromising them with paganism, celebrated Passover can be seen in this passage from The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. He wrote: “The festival, of which we read in Church history, under the name of Easter, in the third or fourth centuries, was quite a different festival from that now observed in the Romish Church, and at that time was not known by any such name as Easter…That festival [Passover] was not idolatrous, and it was preceded by no Lent. ‘It ought to be known,’ said Cassianus, the monk of Marseilles, writing in the fifth century, and contrasting the primitive [New Testament] Church with the Church in his day, ‘that the observance of the forty days had no existence, so long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained inviolate.’” Not only was Lent was not observed by the first century Church, it would appear that Passover was the feast that was observed, not Easter.

As can be seen with all the information above, the holidays that the Church celebrates in no way can claim origin in the Scriptures (except for celebrating the resurrection). We have abandoned God's feasts in favor of pagan ones with a Christian overlay. Does God care? Too many Christians think that He does not, as long as they themselves want to believe the rituals are okay. I do not think that God takes sincerity (which is the excuse) into account. Uzzah was sincere when he tried to catch the ark of the covenant from falling off the wagon. God killed him for disobedience. Nadab and Abihu were sincere when they offered the wrong kind of incense on the fire. God killed them for disobedience. There seems to be a pattern here. Sincerity did not count. Obedience and adherence to God's ways seems to be what God cares about. Ritual, and especially ritual with no real heart repentance is meaningless to God. Hear what He has to say to Israel when they acted in this way, and they were observing the rituals that God had created for them, not pagan ones with a phony godly veneer over them. We should look at their punishments and heed the lesson.

Isaiah 1:11-14, 16-20 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them......Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.  Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:  But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."