Historians often discount the Bible as accurate history. Theologians say that much of Scripture is no longer relevant for Christians. What is the truth? Is the Bible—the whole Bible—a true and invaluable guide for Christian life today?
Nearly all the leading Protestant ministers in past generations proclaimed that the Bible was their "foundation." Famous Protestant theologian William Chillingworth stated, "The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is the religion of Protestants" (Schaff-Herzog, Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article: "Chillingworth, W."). In their constant affirmation of Scripture as "the inspired rule of faith and practice" (ibid., Article: "Bible"), Protestant leaders have committed themselves to follow the religion of Jesus Christ and His apostles in all respects.
Although foundational Protestant reformer Martin Luther rejected the authority of the Bible when he pleased, he still proclaimed, "For that which is asserted without the authority of Scripture or of proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but there is no obligation to believe it" (Doctrines of the Christian Church, ed. Bettenson, p. 280). Even most modern ministers, farther from the truth than Martin Luther, still think of themselves as "Bible-believing Christians."
So did I. I grew up in a mainstream Protestant church for the first 19 years of my life. I was president of my Sunday school class on occasion. Both of my parents graduated from a church-related college, and we all assumed that we were actually following the Bible. Eventually, though, I came to realize—with absolute proof—that we were not following the Bible at all, but rather the "traditions of men" that had been injected into "churchianity" over hundreds of years. My earlier assumptions were wrong.
Think for a moment of the hundreds of differing "Christian" churches with totally different concepts of God and salvation. Are they all following the Bible? "Ecumenical" initiatives like "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" are trying to find ways for Protestants and Roman Catholics to join in such practices as venerating the Virgin Mary and statues of the "saints." At the other extreme, many liberal ministers now proclaim that God approves of the wholesale murder of unborn babies. Increasingly, we are being told that it is acceptable for professing homosexuals to be ordained into "Christian" ministry, and that two men (or two women) can marry each other.
What is going on?
Do all these people sincerely believe they are following the Bible?
Are sincerity and decency enough? In India, most considered "Mahatma" Gandhi to be a good and sincere man. He humbled himself in many ways, and sometimes nearly starved himself in order to provoke his fellow countrymen to rise up and demand independence from Britain. Hundreds of millions—even in the West—regarded him as a "holy man." When you read about all that he suffered and went through, few would doubt his sincerity. But Gandhi was a Hindu who professed deep devotion to the Hindu god Rama, and who honored the myriad gods of the Hindu pantheon. His concept of God, of how to worship God and of the whole purpose of life was totally different from anything that can be found in the Bible.
Likewise, the late Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa is already regarded by millions as a "saint." Certainly, most would say, she was a "good woman." She humbled herself, did without and worked tirelessly for the poor and downtrodden. Yet with total sincerity, she prayed daily to the Virgin Mary, and promoted this practice to millions of her followers and admirers.
Years ago, two dedicated and highly perceptive ministers in the Church of God told me how they deeply felt that the Thai Buddhist monks were among the kindest, most gentle and most serving people they had ever encountered, and utterly sincere. Yet, when religious or sectarian violence erupted, many of these same "gentle" monks would whip out long knives and literally "hack to pieces" their religious or political opponents!
Please understand. Being sincere, and being kind and gentle, is not enough!
The real God of the Bible tells us, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). What is that "truth"? Jesus Christ proclaimed, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). If you are actually willing to face the Truth, you will see that dozens of commonly accepted "Christian" doctrines and practices are not only un-biblical; they are actually condemned by the inspired word of God.
"What are you talking about?" some may respond. "How dare you condemn the doctrines and practices of my church, my family and my life?" That little word "my" can be very important. Most people instinctively want to defend their ideas and their practices, even ideas that can easily be proved wrong! Many sincere people who grew up in Nazi Germany had great difficulty realizing how evil and heinous the Nazi ideas and practices were. Even today, many people still cling tenaciously to communist ideologies and teachings. Giving up our cherished beliefs can be very difficult, even when we are faced with truth.
It all comes down to this: Have you proven to yourself that there is a real, personal God—and that the Bible is His inspired word? If so, are you willing to follow your belief to its logical conclusion? God's word tells us, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12). The way that "seems right" to carnal human beings usually ends up in confusion, suffering and death. Witness the entire world today! By contrast, the Jesus Christ of the Bible proclaimed, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God'" (Luke 4:4). Remember: when Jesus spoke those words, the only written "word of God" was what we now call the Old Testament!
Think! Are you and your church willing to make a full commitment to believe and practice what the Bible clearly says? Making that commitment would be astonishing—something very few people or churches have ever done. For it is very difficult for people—and churches—to change their ideas and practices, and to depart from conveniently "going along" with this world and its traditions, which Jesus so often condemned. Jesus knew it would be difficult. This is why He said, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13–14).
Indeed, the Bible tells us that most human beings would be deceived by a very real Satan the Devil. The Apostle John describes a coming spirit war in which Satan is defeated: "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9). Eventually, Satan will be put in a bottomless pit, "so that he should deceive the nations no more" (Revelation 20:3).
Obviously—according to the clear words of the Bible—this world as a whole is deceived. Amazingly, Scripture reveals that the world's most "civilized" nations will directly fight Jesus Christ when He returns as King of kings (Revelation 17:14)!
What, you may ask, are the dozens of un-biblical doctrines and practices that have deceived so many? Are you willing to open your mind to what your Bible clearly says? Are you willing to obey the biblical command to "prove all things; and hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21, KJV)?
You are? Good. Here we go! An entire panorama of so-called "Christian" doctrine and practice is definitely un-biblical. Many "Christian" doctrines are not only "missing" in the clear biblical teachings of Christ and the apostles; they are often condemned. They confuse millions of human beings, turn them away from God and help blind them to God's true Plan, His awesome purpose and His entire way of life!
If you want more detailed information about any of the points below, I urge you to write to or phone the regional office nearest you (listed on page 30 of this magazine), or to go to our Web site www.tomorrowsworld.org. We offer detailed, informative booklets and reprint articles on all the topics below, and on many, many more. I will mention some of these as we go along in this article. If you request them, they will be sent to you absolutely free and with no obligation!
We will start with the most fundamental question in all our lives: Why were you born? What is the real purpose for human life? What is humanity's ultimate destiny?
In his efforts to thwart the great Plan of the Creator God, Satan has been able to give most professing Christians a totally false concept of eternal life. For we were brought up thinking that, when we died, we would just "float off to heaven." We would feel "heavenly bliss"—perhaps playing on a harp, enjoying each other or looking at the face of God. But—for all eternity—we would have virtually nothing to do! We would have no real job—no challenge or responsibility.
What is wrong with that idea? Not only is it un-biblical; it undermines and negates our Creator's entire purpose! For God's word tells us plainly—again and again—that Christians are to be kings and priests in a soon-coming Government of God, which Jesus Christ will set up on this earth. "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). The inspired "song of the saints" proclaims of Jesus, "For You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9–10).
Jesus Himself told the apostles, "You may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:30). The Apostle Paul was inspired to instruct New Testament Christians, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?" (1 Corinthians 6:2–3).
Yes, true Christians are now "in training" to become kings and priests in the soon-coming Kingdom of God. There, they will assist Jesus Christ in teaching God's true way of life, which will bring to the whole world a depth of peace and joy it has never before experienced!
"But," you may ask, "where does 'going to heaven' fit in with these biblical teachings?"
The obvious answer is: it does not!
For no clear scripture in the entire Bible promises "going to heaven" as the eternal reward of a Christian. Rather, Jesus Christ said, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven" (John 3:13). Jesus also said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). Speaking of King David, the man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), the Apostle Peter stated, "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day" (Acts 2:29).
So the beloved King David is not "up in heaven"—nor is anyone else! The Bible often speaks about the Kingdom of heaven—not up in heaven. The Bank of Morgan is not a piggybank in Morgan's stomach! Rather, it is owned or controlled by Morgan.
The Bible says that we have, as Christians, "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The very next verse clarifies this point, reminding us that we desire "to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven" (2 Corinthians 5:1–2). People often read this passage, or others like it, but carelessly forget to take into account the entire passage and its full meaning. Carelessly misunderstanding and misapplying passages like this has fooled many people into thinking that they will "go to heaven" as their eternal reward.
In fact, the entire Bible is exceedingly clear in revealing that God's Plan is for the Christians of this present age to be here on this earth, assisting Christ as kings and priests in His coming Kingdom that will soon be established. Today's Christians are supposed to be learning God's laws and His ways, preparing for this very real reward and opportunity to serve. How sad that the idea of "floating off to heaven" has been pawned off on so many, completely obscuring this understanding and blinding people to the great Plan of God. So the false doctrine of "going to heaven" is exceedingly dangerous and destructive, thwarting people's understanding of the very reason for which they may be, in this age, "called" by God!
Another destructive doctrine that destroys true biblical understanding of our eternal destiny is the idea of the "immortal soul." This false teaching has convinced untold millions of human beings that they are, in essence, indestructible. Because of this doctrine, millions believe that when they die they will either be shot up to heaven or dropped into an ever-burning fire to suffer forever and ever at the hands of an angry God.
However, God's inspired word makes it very clear that human beings are not immortal or indestructible, and that unrepentant sinners will be put to death in the end—receiving an eternal punishment, rather than being punished eternally.
Jesus said, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). The Son of God tells us that God can "destroy" our "soul!" The Apostle Paul was inspired to reveal, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Yes, eternal life is a "gift"—not something we already possess as immortal souls. And the "wages"—or reward—of unforgiven sin is death—not eternal life in hellfire! Dozens of scriptures—more than can fit in this article—make this truth plain. If you wish to study this topic more thoroughly—and believe what the Bible actually says—please write or phone to ask for our free reprint article, "Is There Life After Death?" or our booklet Your Ultimate Destiny. These, like all our literature, will be sent to you, upon your request, absolutely free and with no obligation.
Another basic and terribly dangerous misunderstanding is that human beings are either "under law" or "under grace." This is a constant Protestant "mantra" that many ministers try to drum into the minds of their followers! In truth, the Bible shows that Christians are to obey the Ten Commandments—God's great spiritual law—and are also under "grace" when they unwittingly break the commandments but then knowingly repent of their sin. For, as God's word tells us, "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV).
Remember, Jesus Christ taught, "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." Right after saying this, He began to name some of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:17). Jesus made this point constantly and consistently!
"But,\ many preachers intone, \all we really need is the love of God, not some legalistic system." But how is the love of God to be expressed? According to each individual idea of what "love" is? No! For God's word tells us plainly, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His command-ments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). God's love flows down the "river bed"—the way—of the Ten Commandments. Obeying these commandments in the letter and the spirit shows us how to express the kind of love, and the kind of character, God wants built within His potential eternal children!
Of course, if we are to keep all ten of the commandments, then we must keep the fourth commandment, and observe the true Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. Jesus Christ—our example—observed the seventh-day Sabbath, as did the apostles and the New Testament Church! As the Apostle James worded it, "For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). Obeying God's true Sabbath points us to the true God—the Creator who Himself rested on the seventh day. It also pictures the coming seventh "millennial day"—the thousand-year reign of Christ, which is a vital part of God's Plan. Apart from keeping the true, biblical Sabbath, human beings end up worshiping a false god, keeping the ancient "day of the sun" and falling into all kinds of paganism and heresy as a result. If you sincerely wish to prove for yourself the true biblical Sabbath, please write or call immediately for our free booklet, Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath?
Those who reject the true Sabbath often fall victim to the idea that Christians can keep many of the world's ancient pagan days of worship (e.g. Christmas, Easter and Halloween) rather than the days God Himself gave to His people—days that Jesus Christ and the apostles observed, which will be observed during Jesus Christ's coming millennial reign. To learn more about this vital topic, please ask for our free booklet, The Holy Days: God's Master Plan. It will spell out to you the truth on this matter in much more detail than we can cover in a short magazine article. It will explain how God's Holy Days clearly reveal and outline His great plan—the step-by-step plan through which He is bringing human beings into full membership in His Family. Without understanding the Holy Days, mankind as a whole has never understood the Creator's great plan—and never will! The understanding of God's true Holy Days is priceless!
I could go on and on with literally dozens more of the false doctrines and concepts that have been taught in the name of "Christianity.\ But the above should give you a pretty good idea, as the points I have just covered are fundamental.
If you would like to understand more deeply about how Satan has been able to confuse and deceive all humanity on these points and many others, please write for our thoroughly documented booklet, Satan's Counterfeit Christianity. This booklet gives thorough proof for what it says. If you are open-minded, it will \knock your socks off!"
Yes, the Bible really does mean what it says, and it says what it means! May God help you to be willing to open your mind and prove to yourself that the Bible is, in fact, the inspired word of God. We must avoid the clever arguments and "word games" often practiced by those who want to retain their comfortable old ideas, however unbiblical. In most cases, perhaps without realizing it, they are like the Pharisees of Jesus' day who rejected Him and His true teachings, "For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:43).
May God grant you the understanding, the faith and the courage to exert the intellectual and spiritual energy to find out the Truth of what the Bible really says. And may He guide you to genuinely act on this knowledge in the fear of the real God who gives us life and breath and every good gift.