Do You Live by What Christ Taught?
What was the Christianity of Jesus Christ and the apostles really like?
Would Jesus even recognize the doctrines and practices of today's "mainstream" Christianity?
The kind of Christianity you believe and practice may spell the difference between life or death—much sooner than you realize! Jesus Himself predicted a massive Great Tribulation so awful that "no flesh would be saved" unless God Almighty intervened in human affairs (Matthew 24:21–22). If you are not following His true ways, your very life, and the lives of your loved ones, may be at stake.
Describing this soon-coming Great Tribulation, Mark's inspired gospel states: "For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days" (Mark 13:19–20).
Do you really believe what the Bible clearly and repeatedly says? If you do, you should be alert to Jesus' plain warnings about following the traditions of men. For Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day with these meaningful words: "You have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'" (Matthew 15:6–9).
So, for your sake—for the sake of the Eternal God's favor, and His divine protection for you and your loved ones—it is absolutely vital that you do not follow the "commandments of men" instead of the commandments of God!
Let me explain.
Most of you Tomorrow's World readers are undoubtedly sincere in your desire to find and to fulfill the real purpose for your lives! By now, I trust, you already understand that we at Tomorrow's World are not a part of "mainstream" Christianity. You perhaps realize that we are different for a reason. You may realize that most of us in this Work grew up in mainstream churches and practiced the customs of the average churchgoer. We eventually proved to ourselves that we had to "come out" of this system in order to obey and to serve the true God of the Bible. Many of us had to give up family, friends or jobs in order to do this.
Because we came to realize that Jesus Christ absolutely insists that we follow His true Christianity, not just any false Christianity or other religion in which we just happened to be reared. We came to realize that God's inspired words actually condemn those who put Christ's very name on all kinds of pagan doctrines and customs that they have somehow put together. Over and over, in many different ways, the Jesus Christ of your Bible challenged His followers, "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46).
Growing up in a "mainstream Christian" church, going to Sunday school and even as president of my Sunday school class, I did not realize how absolutely vital it is that all who call themselves "Christian" must be willing to obey Christ's clear and consistent teachings, to surrender their lives and truly strive to "live by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). Jesus Christ insists on it! Most of you reading this article do sincerely want to honor Christ and God the Father. In the past, you may have felt (as I did) that you were obeying the God of the Bible. Yet, if you will honestly and thoroughly "check it out"—as I, personally, had to do—you will probably find that you have believed in dozens of doctrines and concepts that have no basis whatsoever in the Bible. In like fashion, you will find that you have—probably unwittingly—been following all kinds of pagan customs and practices that Jesus and the original apostles would have condemned!
The Apostle Paul warned the Christians of his day: "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:29–31).
Dear friend, for your own sake, please consider whether you are truly following the "whole counsel of God," to which Paul had just referred earlier in his inspired writings! Certainly most of you may understand part of the Bible, part of Christ's true teachings—and perhaps a little bit regarding prophecy and the awesome purpose for which God created you. However, just "accepting Jesus," joining some church down the street, and hoping to "float off to heaven" when you die is not what true Christianity is all about! Most who call themselves "Christians" have never been taught the full purpose of human existence! It is vital that you come to fully understand and follow the "whole counsel" of Almighty God (Job 15:8; Acts 20:27).
We have just read Paul's warning that "savage wolves" would come in and "draw away" many from the Truth of God. Paul also urgently warned God's people about a great "falling away" (2 Thessalonians 2:1–12). He wrote: "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming" (vv. 7–8).
What did Paul mean by "lawlessness"? In his day, people traveled by foot or on an animal. Paul was obviously referring to something more than "traffic laws" being violated. Paul was describing a religious system—the "mystery of lawlessness"—that was slowly but surely taking over the name of Christianity, perverting Christ's teachings and practices, convincing people to abandon God's great spiritual law!
Nearly all respected mainstream historians know that a massive change came over the professing Christian church within a century after Christ and the original apostles died. One historian writes: "For fifty years after St. Paul's life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120AD with the writings of the earliest church-fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul" (Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, The Story of the Christian Church, p. 41).
On whose authority did the early bishops make these drastic changes? Did God or Jesus Christ tell them to make the true church very different from the original church of Christ and the apostles?
Rather, even after His death, Jesus told the apostles, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age…" (Matthew 28:19–20).
On whose authority did the so-called "church fathers" do away with—and virtually destroy for their followers—the teachings of Jesus Christ and the original apostles? The real answer is that they had no such authority! That is why God inspired the Apostle Jude to exhort true Christians: "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 3–4).
Jude tells us that we will literally need to "contend"—fight—for the "faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." He warns about certain men who "crept in" to turn the concept of grace into "licentiousness"—into a license for deceived people to think that they can disobey God's great spiritual law and still somehow enter the Kingdom of God!
This, my friends, is exactly what most "mainstream" Christians believe today. Many churches talk about the Ten Commandments as a good general guideline. But if you pin them down, the vast majority of mainstream ministers will say that a Christian is not bound to keep the Ten Commandments as a way of life! This is one reason why God inspired Jude to exhort us to contend for the true faith which was "once for all delivered to the saints."
What would it mean to restore the original Christianity of Christ and the apostles? What differences would we find if the "original Christianity" of the New Testament was genuinely taught and practiced once again?
Wow! This restoration would involve far more than most of you probably realize! Because, as we have seen from history, by 120AD historians find a professing Christian church "in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul."
Respected historian Will Durant wrote, "Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the Church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass. Other pagan cultures contributed to the syncretist result. From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity... and a personal immortality of reward and punishment; from Egypt the adoration of the Mother and Child, and the mystic theosophy that made Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, and obscured the Christian creed…" (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 5, Durant, pp. 595, 599).
For hundreds of years during the Dark Ages, the genuine Christianity of Christ and the apostles was indeed "obscured." Men wrongly taught, in Jesus' name, a totally different way of life and approach to God. False teachers replaced the original Holy Days—commanded by God, and observed by Christ and the apostles—with pagan days and worldly concepts. As historian Jesse Lyman Hurlbut wrote: "The forms and ceremonies of paganism gradually crept into the worship. Some of the old heathen feasts became church festivals with change of name and of worship. About 405AD images of saints and martyrs began to appear in the churches, at first as memorials, then in succession revered, adored, and worshipped" (The Story of the Christian Church, p. 73).
At that time, false Christians gradually introduced "heathen feasts" such as Christmas, Easter and All Saints Day into the professing Christian church. But what about the fourth commandment of Almighty God? What about the commanded weekly day of rest and worship? "As long as the church was mainly Jewish, the Hebrew sabbath was kept; but as it became increasingly Gentile the first day gradually took the place of the seventh day" (ibid., p. 45).
Was this God's idea? Did God gradually change His divine law so His worshipers could honor the "day of the sun"—Sunday—as the pagans had done for centuries?
As scores of authorities acknowledge, the true Christians—Gentiles and Jews alike—all worshiped on the seventh day Sabbath. Historians agree that this continued for at least a generation or two after the deaths of the Twelve Apostles! God did not change His law. The Apostle Paul instructed Christians: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). The Apostle John observed: "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6).
These two apostles, like all the others, knew that Jesus Christ came to show the perfect example, and that Christians ought to follow His example, strengthened by the Holy Spirit. This was the commonplace understanding in the Apostle Paul's day, as Christianity spread across the Roman Empire. Historians acknowledge this fact, as the following meaningful quotation reminds us:
"Everywhere, especially in the East of the Roman Empire, there would be Jewish Christians whose outward way of life would not be markedly different from that of the Jews. They took for granted that the gospel was continuous with [the religion of Moses]; for them the New Covenant, which Jesus had set up at the Last Supper with His disciples… did not mean that the covenant made between God and Israel was no longer in force. They still observed the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles… the weekly Sabbath and the Mosaic regulations concerning food. According to some scholars, they must have been so strong that right up to the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 they were the dominant element in the Christian movement (Judeo-christianisme, "Paul and Jewish Christianity," Davies, 1972, p. 72, quoted in Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday, p. 151).
So, for about the first 40 years of Christianity, guided by the Holy Spirit, the dominant element in the Church of God was still following Christ's example of keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths commanded by God. Christians were still following the example set by the Jerusalem Church of God!
Who dared to change all of that?
The inspired Apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:27–28).
If one could have looked in on the "church of God which is at Corinth"—as Paul addressed the church—what way of life would one have observed among these Gentile Christians? What laws of God and biblical teachings would stand out as being different from mainstream "Christianity" as it is practiced today?
First, even to be present with the early Christians when they met, one would have to grasp the vital importance of obeying all ten of the Ten Commandments—including the fourth commandment. For the fourth commandment states, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates" (Exodus 20:8–10).
This commandment, above all others, reminds the believer that the true God is the Creator. God made the seventh day "holy time"—not Sunday, which is the first day of the week. He did this right at the time of creation—long before there were any Jews. For the Sabbath was not made for the Jews! Jesus Christ Himself said, "The Sabbath was made for man"(Mark 2:27). It was made when human beings were made, then later was made part of the codified spiritual law—the Ten Commandments—which God Himself wrote on two tablets of stone (Exodus 34:28).
Worshiping regularly on the seventh day—the day that begins at what we today call Friday at sunset, and continues until sunset on Saturday—the early Christians were always mindful that the true God was the Creator of heaven and earth, who gave the Ten Commandments that reveal the basis of the right way of life! And the early Christians also observed the seven annual Holy Days—seven annual festivals directly commanded in the Bible. For Christ and the apostles taught Christians to "live by every word of God" (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4)—and the only written word of God then available was what we call the Old Testament. From the Old Testament book of Zechariah, the early Christians would have read and understood that when the Messiah returns to earth as King of kings, He will direct all nations—Jews and Gentiles alike—to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the seven annual festivals that God commandedHis people to observe.
As Zechariah wrote: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16). Then the prophet goes on to tell us that God will shut off the rain from any nation refusing to keep the Feast of Tabernacles! This, my friends, is going to occur during the soon-coming rule of Jesus Christ!
Does it sound as though the genuine Christ of your Bible means business when He commands obedience to God's Laws? Yes, it does! And, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Are you familiar with that aspect of the biblical Jesus Christ?
Meeting with the original Christians at Corinth, one would also note that they were not observing Easter. Rather, they kept the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, two of God's commanded annual observances (1 Corinthians 5:6–8). After reminding them that Jesus Christ was sacrificed as our Passover, Paul instructed the Christians at Corinth, "Therefore let us keep the feast" (v. 8). Since Paul's whole context here involves the Passover and Unleavened Bread, it is obvious that he was exhorting these Gentile Christians to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread—the Feast observed in connection with, and occurring just after, the Passover!
Also, if we met regularly with the early Church of God at Corinth, we would hear one of the elders reading Paul's first letter to them, in which he wrote, "But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost" (1 Corinthians 16:8). Pentecost? Perhaps you thought that Pentecost was a onetime event when the Church began, when Peter preached to a massive crowd and 3,000 people were converted (Acts 2).
No. Pentecost was also one of the seven annual festivals that the early Christians observed. These festivals point out and help us commemorate the great Plan that God is working out here on earth. Without observing these true biblical Holy Days—which Christ and the early Church observed—most of today's churchgoers are in total ignorance of the Plan which God is working out among humanity today. We have prepared a well-documented booklet which fully explains these God-given festivals and their meaning, titled The Holy Days: God's Master Plan. Please write for your free copy.
God's seven annual commanded festivals teach us how He is working out His purpose among mankind. First, the Passover clearly focuses on Jesus Christ as the "Lamb" of God. This is the first step for true Christians—repenting of sins and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Next come the Days of Unleavened Bread, in which the act of "putting out leaven" focuses on the next step in true Christianity—the absolute necessity to put sin out of our lives, to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
God's third commanded annual festival is Pentecost—or, as it is called in the Old Testament—the Feast of "Firstfruits" (Exodus 23:16; 34:22). As Old Testament scholars know, this festival celebrates the spring harvest of barley—the small harvest. This reminds us that God is now only harvesting the "firstfruits" of salvation. For the major harvest of souls will occur during Christ's millennial reign and during the Great White Throne Judgment. Pentecost reminds the true Christian of the need for God's power through His Spirit, and of His blessing on the small number of people He is now calling out of this deceived world.
The last four annual Holy Days all occur in the seventh month—seven being the number of "completion" or perfection. The festival of "Trumpets" is God's festival that comes on the first day of the seventh month. Ancient Israel used trumpets as a signal or alarm of war! And the entire Bible is replete with scriptures showing us that Jesus Christ will return to this earth at the "last trumpet" (1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 11:15). Therefore, year after year, this festival reminds Christians about this vital part of God's Plan—Jesus Christ's return and His establishing the Kingdom of God over the entire world!
The Day of Atonement comes next, on the tenth day of the seventh month. It pictures Satan's banishment from the earth after Christ's Second Coming. The entire world will then be brought to the full knowledge of the Truth, and Satan's presence and his power to "deceive the nations" (Revelation 20:1–3) will cease.
Next comes the joyful and exciting Feast of Tabernacles, when "all the nations will come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (see Zechariah 14:16–19). This festival is also called the "Feast of Ingathering" (Exodus 23:16). It pictures the time when God will finally set His hand to "save all the nations of the earth," and all people around the world will live under Christ's rule, learning and living by the Truth throughout their lives.
But what about the billions of human beings who have died without ever being truly "called" of God—who never really understood God's magnificent Plan and the supreme purpose for human existence? This is what God's seventh annual festival pictures. This festival—the "Last Great Day"—pictures that time described in Revelation 20:11–13 when every human being who has ever lived will be given a genuine opportunity to learn the Truth and to respond. God is not unfair! He describes a coming "day of judgment" then even the vile sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah will be given a chance they never had before (Matthew 11:20–24).
So, through observing God's Holy Days and learning and reviewing God's great Plan through these days, the original Christians would have understood the great purpose our Creator is working out among humanity.
Every human being truly needs to have one day a week to genuinely rest and have the opportunity to meditate and contemplate on life's lessons. As we have seen, "the Sabbath was made for man" (Mark 2:27). It was made when mankind was made—long before the old covenant, and long before the Jews even existed as a people. It was made for all human beings. The weekly Sabbath was also given as a "convocation"—a commanded assembly (Leviticus 23:1–3). The Bible tells us that in Tomorrow's World, when Christ is fully in charge as King of kings, "from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me, says the LORD" (Isaiah 66:23). True Christians today are, in a sense, "pioneers" in being willing to learn and obey God's teachings, and to keep holy the days He made holy. The God of the Bible tells us even now to "convoke"—to assemble—on His Sabbath. And the writer of Hebrews reminds those of us living in these last days, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24–25).
But do you know where to assemble with people who really understand what this is all about?
A third lesson the biblical seventh day Sabbath teaches us is that it is a type of the coming Millennium—the rule of Jesus Christ over the earth for a thousand sand years. Many secular historians regard Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as the definitive history of the Roman Empire's later years. Describing the early Christians, Gibbon wrote: "The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to a tradition which was attributed to the prophet Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years. By the same analogy it was inferred that this long period of labour and contention, which was now almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death, or who had been miraculously revived, would reign upon the earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection" (p. 403).
Those of us who keep the biblical Sabbath are constantly reminded of the ultimate "rest" God will give His people—the coming millennial reign of Christ as "King of kings" over this earth (Revelation 19:16), and eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
By contrast, those who observe the pagan "day of the sun" and the annual pagan holidays—so artfully woven into the fabric of professing "Christianity"—are accepting a totally different concept of Christ and God. They are learning to disregard God's command to keep the seventh-day Sabbath as "holy time," and are unable to learn all the spiritual lessons this involves. By neglecting to keep the true biblical Holy Days of God, they never fully understand the great Plan of God, which is revealed and rehearsed through His commanded Holy Days. Believers in "mainstream Christianity" are usually taught about "floating off to heaven" with nothing to do! However, as historian Gibbon explained, the early Christians looked forward to being part of that "triumphant band of saints" who would rule this world under Jesus Christ for the thousand-year "Sabbath" of the Millennium! That was their goal—not floating off to heaven! The Apostle John reveals to us the "prayer of the saints" in these words, "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; 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).
Somewhere on earth today is the true "Church of God"—called by that name a dozen times in the New Nestament. Its members do understand the real meaning of life. They are being taught and prepared to be those kings and priests under Jesus Christ in Tomorrow's World. Somehow, you have been brought into contact with the true Church through reading this very magazine—published by the Living Church of God, headquartered in Charlotte, NC, USA.
If God is opening your mind and you wish to act on the precious Truth He is revealing, be sure to write to us or call us, or contact us via the Internet, and request a visit at a place and time convenient to you. We have ministers or trained representatives in nearly every part of the world, and we will not "pressure" you to do or to join anything!
Finally, if you want further written documentation and proof about God's Holy Days, about the true Christian Sabbath or about the entire concept of restoring Apostolic Christianity, be sure to request our free booklets, The Holy Days: God's Master Plan, Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath? and Restoring Apostolic Christianity. They will be sent to you absolutely free, with no obligation. Just phone, write, fax or send e-mail to the regional office nearest you, listed at the bottom of page 30 of this magazine.
May God grant you the understanding, the faith and the courage to take the necessary actions to show yourself to Him as one who genuinely desires to be in His eternal Kingdom and fulfill the purpose for which He has created you!