Wallace G. Smith | Tomorrow's World

Wallace G. Smith

Is Jesus a Christian?

What defines a true Christian? To take Jesus Christ's name—to be a Christian—implies living as He lived, following His example and teachings. But are you? What if today's Christianity has drastically changed from Jesus Christ's intent? What would Jesus do—and not do—as a Christian living in today's world? Watch to find out from the Bible whether you are measuring up to Christ's standard—or if Jesus' example requires something more than "come as you are."

[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]

A Most Unusual Question

More than two billion people—approximately one-third of all humanity—claim to be Christian, a religion that takes its name from Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ and Son of God, according to the Bible. But here’s a strange question that almost seems silly until you take the time to really think about it: Is Jesus Himself a Christian? Today, we’re going to tackle that question together, and we’ll discover that the answer is far more revealing that you might think. Join us here on Tomorrow’s World as we answer the question “Is Jesus a Christian?”

What Did Jesus Really Do and Practice?

Greetings, and welcome to Tomorrow’s World, where we help you make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible.

Now I know our title seems unusual today. After all, if anyone can be described as a Christian, surely it is Jesus Christ, the very founder of Christianity! The answer seems obvious! However, I am certain that you will find that that simple question leads to other intriguing questions—and to intriguing answers—that reveal far more about Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity than you might have guessed.

Today, we’re asking the question, “Is Jesus a Christian?” And I hope you don’t think I’m asking the question to either make light of Christianity or Jesus Christ. I’m not. Here at Tomorrow’s World, all of us believe that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, who died for our sins, rose again three days and three nights later, and lives now, guiding His Church from Heaven—the Savior whose return and reign is getting closer day by day.

In fact, it is because we take Jesus Christ and His teachings seriously that we ask this question today: “Is Jesus Christ a Christian?”

Most of us know Christians in our lives—many of us believe we ARE Christians. In fact, as we mentioned at the very beginning of our program today, more than TWO BILLION people claim to be Christians today—literally almost one-third of humanity. The influence of the religion going by the name of “Christianity” touches every continent on the globe, and its principles and precepts have impacted governments, cultures, and traditions all over the world.

Of course, the details about what “Christianity” means vary from place to place, culture to culture—and, in some towns, even street to street, as the church on one block may teach a very different set of doctrines than the church just one block down.

Still, most of us have personal experience that gives us a sense of what the word “Christian” means in real life, based on the beliefs, practices, and lives of those we know—or even own.

So, with that in mind, is Jesus a Christian? That is, if Jesus were walking among us today—as He did in the flesh 2,000 years ago—but you did not know ahead of time that He WAS Jesus Christ, would you conclude that He was a Christian? If you compared HIS beliefs, practices, and life with the beliefs, practices, and lives of those who make up “Christianity” today, what would you conclude? How would Jesus “measure up”? Would you believe He was a Christian, or would you conclude that He belonged to some other faith—a different religion entirely?

We don’t have to guess the answer to this question. Jesus answers it for us! The Bible is, in a very real way, His book! From its first page to its last, He inspired its writing through the Holy Spirit, and His teachings are perfectly recorded within its pages. We can know what He believed and practiced, because the record of His life on earth has been preserved for us faithfully for almost 2,000 years, as have the teachings and practices of His very first disciples—personally trained by Him to represent Him to the world.

For the remainder of today’s program, we will examine the beliefs and practices of Jesus Christ and compare them to the beliefs and practices most common among Christians today—and in answering the question “Is Jesus a Christian?” we will let Jesus speak for Himself.

How Does First Century Christianity Compare to Today?

Since we have the perfect record of His beliefs, teachings, and practices. So let’s ask some questions and compare what Jesus Christ did and thought to what we see in the beliefs and practices of modern Christianity, today.

First, let’s look at holidays.

Christians around the world vary in the days they keep sacred, but there is a large consensus around some days, such as Christmas in the winter and Easter in the Spring. While these days are often described as a celebration of Jesus’ birth and resurrection, respectively, it is also a fact of history that both days derive from and are adorned with pagan practices and traditions—trappings associated with heathen gods and goddesses and pagan cultures, some of which predate Christianity by many centuries.

You don’t need to take my word for it, and even the laziest of Internet searches will dig up any number of resources for you—for instance, showing how Christmas traces itself back to customs such as the Roman worship of the Sun on the day of Sol Invictus, around the time of the winter solstice, and how many of the trappings of Easter trace back to heathen fertility rituals and the worship of gods and goddesses, such as Eostre, from which the English word “Easter” is believed to be derived.

Now, this may be news to some of you, but many Christians KNOW about the pagan origins of their favorite holidays. They simply believe that God doesn’t mind—as if, perhaps, those days have been “baptized” now, and can be celebrated by Christians with new meaning. After all, Christians don’t believe they are worshiping heathen gods on those days—they are trying to worship the God of the Bible.

Now, compare this to Jesus’ own stand.

Just as it is beyond dispute that these days and many of their traditions originate in paganism, it is also beyond dispute that, in the Bible, God commands us NOT to keep days with such origins. For instance, consider Deuteronomy chapter 12 and verse 31, where God speaks to ancient Israel of the pagan practices of other cultures and commands very clearly: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.” Now notice, He does NOT just say, “Don’t worship those gods.” God plainly says not to worship HIM in THOSE WAYS. We could read of other places, as well, where God’s command is clear—for instance, in Jeremiah 10, where God describes the pagan worship practices of the Gentiles and says with absolute clarity…

“DO NOT learn the way of the Gentiles…” (Jeremiah 10:2).

Of course, these commands are given in the OLD TESTAMENT, yet, what was Jesus’ position on the traditions of men when they conflicted with the commands of God? Jesus Himself tells us in Mark chapter 7, where He is accusing the Jewish leaders of His day of IGNORING God’s clear commands so that they could keep their own traditions, instead:

“He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”… All too well you REJECT the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition’” (Mark 7:6–7, 9).

It seems like Jesus’ position is pretty clear, and it is NOT in favor of keeping ANY days of pagan origin or tradition.

Still, this does not mean that Jesus observed no holy days or festivals at all, In fact, quite the opposite! While He refused to compromise and accept the traditions of men when they conflicted with God’s own commands, He DID keep the Holy Days listed in the Bible—specifically, those listed in Leviticus 23—Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day.

For instance, in John chapter 7, we see Jesus keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, which is listed in Leviticus 23:33–43.

Of course, some will say, “Well, that’s different—Jesus HAD to keep them, because He was Jewish! All those days were done away with when He died!”

Except they’d be wrong. The New Testament describes the followers He trained keeping those very same days. For instance, Acts 20:16 mentions Paul’s intention to keep the Day of Pentecost, and in 1 Corinthians chapter 5—written decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection—the Apostle clearly instructs not just Jews but non-Jewish GENTILE Christians to keep the seven-day long Feast of Unleavened Bread.

God’s word makes it plain that Jesus not only condemned elements found in today’s modern Christian holidays, but it also makes plain that He AND HIS DISCIPLES would have observed Holy Days completely foreign to those who call themselves Christian today.

We see a similar discrepancy when we look at the weekly day of worship Jesus kept.

While the vast majority of those today who consider themselves Christian keep Sunday, the first day of the week, as their weekly day of worship, Jesus plainly kept the SEVENTH DAY holy, as the Sabbath. Luke 4 and verse 16 plainly says that it was Jesus’ custom to observe the seventh-day Sabbath.

Now again, some might protest that this was before Jesus’ death and resurrection—that Jesus, as a Jew, HAD to keep the Sabbath, but that after His resurrection, Christians began keeping Sunday because it was the day of the week He was resurrected.

Well, the confusion of the day of the week Jesus was resurrected will be a topic for another program. But, again, we must highlight that the BIBLE shows Jesus’ own followers disagreeing with modern Christianity and keeping the VERY SAME DAY JESUS DID, even when they were Gentiles and not Jews, at all.

For instance, in Acts 13 we read of Paul preaching to both Jews and Gentiles on the seventh-day Sabbath. The non-Jewish Gentiles among them were so excited by what they heard that they begged for more. As we read in Acts 13 and verse 42:

“So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42).

Now, did Paul say to them, “Well, hey, Gentiles, you guys aren’t Jews. Let’s just meet tomorrow on Sunday when my fellow Christians and I are going to have services”? NO, HE DID NOT! Verse 44 says,

“On the next SABBATH almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:44).

He did not invite them to meet for a Christian service on Sunday because there WAS NONE! The Apostle Paul continued, even among the GENTILES, to follow the practice and teaching of Jesus Christ and set apart the seventh-day Sabbath as God’s day for instruction and worship! Even many modern, Sunday-keeping Christian scholars agree on this point: The Bible endorses the seventh-day Sabbath as the day of worship, including the record of Jesus’ teachings and practice and those of His personally trained disciples.

So, what have we seen so far? We’ve seen that, if Jesus were alive among us today IN THE FLESH, as He was 2,000 years ago, He’d find that people who call themselves His followers, all over the world, go to their worship services on completely different days than He does and keep traditions that violate God’s commands in exactly the ways He taught them not to do.

It seems that, concerning the question “Is Jesus a Christian?,” we are beginning to see a very interesting answer ahead.

Jesus Preached the Coming Kingdom of God, and Kept the Ten Commandments!

Now, let’s continue our exploration of the question “Is Jesus a Christian?” by looking at His teachings and attitudes about the law of God and the Ten Commandments.

For most modern Christians, if they are familiar with the law of God and the Ten Commandments at all, there is a sense that the law has been effectively done away by Christ’s sacrifice—the idea that He kept God’s laws perfectly so that we don’t HAVE to keep them. Many modern Christian churches teach that Christ removed the “burden” of God’s laws from us so that we aren’t “weighed down” by such concerns.

That might explain why many Evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic Christians are beginning to live together, or cohabit, before marriage—after all, if God’s prohibitions against fornication are essentially done away with in Christ, then why not?

As Christianity Today reported in March of 2021, “Evangelicals, especially those under 40, increasingly see cohabitation as morally acceptable. Most young evangelicals have engaged in it or expect to” (“The Cohabitation Dilemma Comes for America’s Pastors,” March 16, 2021).

As I’ve said before on Tomorrow’s World, modern Christianity considers the Ten Commandments to be the Seven, Eight, or Nine Good but Not Necessary Suggestions.

But what is JESUS’ take on the Ten Commandments and the Law of God?

Not only does He reaffirm the Ten Commandments, He explains that those who follow Him should consider them even MORE binding. For instance, Jesus taught that you violate the Sixth Commandment against murder, even if you only hate someone in your heart—and if you lust after someone, then He says you are breaking the Seventh Commandment against adultery. Far from “doing away” with the Law of God, Jesus taught OBEDIENCE to them, even telling a young man in Matthew 19:17,

“[I]f you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

Again, this was NOT just because He had not been crucified yet. In fact, John, the Apostle who wrote more about love than any other biblical author, explains in his first epistle, speaking of Jesus Christ:

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3–4).

So, clearly Jesus and His disciples don’t exactly “line up” behind modern Christianity’s attitudes and beliefs about God’s Laws. But what about this: What is the MESSAGE of Jesus Christ? What is the actual GOSPEL MESSAGE that He came to preach?

Most modern Christians, if they’ve thought about it at all or have listened in Church, might believe that the Gospel Jesus brought was about His life, death, and resurrection, and that through believing in Him, your sins can be forgiven through His death.

Now, I am not here to disagree that forgiveness of sins comes through repenting and believing in Jesus Christ—I am grateful for that fact! But is THAT the message Jesus came to preach? Is that the Gospel? Do Jesus and most modern Christians agree on this?

No, they don’t. Passage after passage after passage after passage in the Bible makes plain that Jesus Christ came to preach about the coming Kingdom of God! Yes, salvation through Him is a part of that message—without that, we could become no part of that Kingdom! Yet, when one actually looks at the accounts of His teachings and of His disciples’ teachings, the idea that the message was merely one about His life, death, and resurrection begins to be seen as nonsense.

For instance, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, what do we see? Mark chapter 1 and verses 14 and 15 make it plain;

“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

But the more carefully you look, it becomes even clearer. For instance, in Luke chapter 9 we read that during His ministry Jesus called His disciples together to instruct them on teaching others. Verse 2 plainly says,

“He sent them to preach the kingdom of God [there it is again] and to heal the sick.”

But ask yourself: If the Gospel is centered on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then how did the disciples preach those things when none of those things had happened, yet? In fact, events LATER in the gospels show that they didn’t even understand yet that Jesus would DIE, let alone be RESURRECTED! And they sure didn’t understand forgiveness of sins through His shed blood! No, they preached about the coming Kingdom of God, in which the Messiah would reign over the world. THAT was their message, just as it was Jesus’ message.

We see this time and again in the biblical account. In fact, many times when Jesus heals someone in the accounts, He instructs them NOT to tell others who He is—the exact opposite of what you would expect if the very center of Christ’s message was about His person.

Finally, more than a month after His resurrection, just as Jesus is about to ascend to heaven where He would reside until His Second Coming, what does the Bible say He emphasized to His disciples in preparation for their commission to the world? Look at it in Acts chapter 1 and verse 3, where the resurrected Jesus’ instruction to His disciples is described, saying that

“He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Yet, again, if we compare Jesus to modern Christians and their beliefs and practices and teachings, we see a stark and important difference.

We are coming to the point where our question “Is Jesus a Christian?” is pressing us to draw an important conclusion.

We’ll come to that conclusion in a moment.

Are YOU a Christian?

But regardless of what anyone else may think, the only definition of “Christian” that makes any sense is “someone who truly follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.” So if the beliefs and practices of modern Christians are out of step with Jesus Christ, it isn’t Jesus who needs to change.

Faced with these facts, those who truly long to be followers of Jesus Christ are the ones who have some thinking to do.

Thanks so much for watching! If you want the free literature that we offer on today’s program, there’s a link in the description. And people often ask us, “How do you do this for free? Why do you do this for free?” Honestly, because Jesus commands us to do it for free; “Freely you’ve received, freely give,” so as always, everything that we offer is absolutely free, and this is no different. We work hard at producing these programs; we put one out every week here at Tomorrow’s World, where we work hard to explain to you your world through the pages of the Bible. We hope that you will join us again. We hope that if it’s been interesting at all, you’ll click on the subscribe button, and if you want to be notified when we do put another one up, just click on that bell. Thanks again!

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Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

Consider whether Christmas is un-Christian. If its origins adopted pagan customs and traditions, does that matter to God? Did Jesus say, "That’s okay—as long as you have good intentions"? Find out the Bible's answers in this episode of Tomorrow's World.

[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]

Warm Traditions—But Where Did They Come From?

So many find so much joy in the sights and sounds of December—especially, the arrival of Christmas. Along with green and red decorations, signs and posters featuring a certain jolly, red-robed gentleman, and music you just can not get out of your head, comes the perennial question: Is Christmas a pagan holiday?

Most don’t even care about the answer, but for those who take biblical faith seriously, it is a serious question—and a question in need of an answer. And we will answer that question here on Tomorrow’s World, straight from the pages of your Bible, right now.

Childhood Memories Not Enough

Greetings, and welcome to Tomorrow’s World where we help you make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible! Today we’re going to tackle a question that seems to arise every December: “Is Christmas a pagan holiday?”

We’ll be examining the question honestly and openly, with a desire to orient our hearts and minds according to the advice of Jesus Christ as He taught us in Matthew 6 and verse 33 to 

“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

And the question is important. How we choose to honor the Father and His Son matters. As we will see in the inspired words of Scripture, our practices have a profound effect on our relationship with God and on the character we are forming for His use and purposes.

For literally hundreds of thousands of people who consider themselves sincere Christians, the Christmas season is among the most sacred.

It is a time for calling to mind the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised Savior of the world. Many attend religious services in December, devoted to remembering popular narratives of the birth of Jesus, whose birth is ostensibly celebrated on Christmas Day itself.

And many of us have many pleasant memories associated with the Christmas season. In fact, celebrated as it is all over the world, it would be impossible for me to cover in a program such as this one ALL the many customs that individuals across the globe use to make the season special. So, permit me to focus a bit on those customs I, as an American, am more familiar with.

Our cities and even individual homes are often decorated with special reminders of the season—such as nativity scenes, branches or wreaths of holly, and Christmas trees decorated with tinsel of silver and gold. Many will have bought or personally crafted presents for their friends and family members, who will sometimes travel long distances to reunite for a few evenings, enjoy Christmas dinner together, and exchange presents and pleasantries. And many will seek to sneak a kiss from someone while catching them standing under mistletoe.

Of course, some children will be told the night before that their presents are being brought to them from the North Pole by Santa Claus, or “St. Nick,” as the adults wink to each other with a knowing eye.

In the morning, the children enjoy tearing into their presents to see what “Santa” brought them, and some families will head to religious services to hear a message related to the birth of Jesus—especially those who are concerned that commercialism is crowding out what they believe to be the real meaning of Christmas: The message that God sent His Son into the world on Christmas Day, born of the Virgin Mary to be the Savior of mankind.

There’s more that I could say, but hopefully this captures the popular spirit of the Christmas season. Yes, it is a stressful time for many. Sometimes family gatherings are a source of anxiety, and buying gifts for one another can seem a burdensome obligation—especially when the credit card bill begins to reveal the damage of our attempts at merrymaking.

However, I want to acknowledge that many joyous memories tend to be associated with Christmas and the Christmas season. I, myself, as a child and young man participated in these things. I remember the joys of receiving gifts and buying gifts for others. I don’t know if you can see it very well, but these old, blurry pictures are of me as a small child, enjoying his brand new Christmas presents.

You know, I remember seeing once, as a teenager, a small statue depicting Santa kneeling at the cradle of what was, ostensibly, the “Baby Jesus.” And I was moved—I felt at the time that it was a nice way of trying to point out what I thought was the more important aspect of the Christmas season. I’ve even played the part of Joseph once in a Christmas choral performance.

In other words, I’ve been there; I’ve done that.

I mention these things at the beginning of our discussion to highlight a crucial fact. As we tackle our question today—“Is Christmas a pagan holiday?”—we must keep in mind: None of this is relevant.

We may have years’ worth of positive memories associated with Christmas. We may love the music, the atmosphere, the traditions, and the focus on Jesus and the message of His birth.

Yet literally none of that is relevant to the question “Is Christmas a pagan holiday?”

After all, many religions have their joyous festivals, their times of family gathering, their fondly remembered songs, and traditions that warm the hearts of their adherents.

If we are going to address this question head on, we have to be willing to distance ourselves from our emotional responses and our happy memories and seek to answer the question from the perspective of facts, sound mindedness, and God’s revealed truth.

Actually, that is the easy part, as we’ll see. But what we do with that truth—that’s the hard part. Following Jesus Christ isn’t for cowards.

Seeking the Truth About Christmas—And Finding It

We want to understand the truth, and we want to seek that truth with an open mind—because truth is important.

John 4 relates a famous account of Jesus’ discussion with a Samaritan woman. She spoke to Him of the Samaritans’ traditions concerning worshiping the God of the Bible, which differed in many ways from the ways actually discussed in the Bible—even though their traditions were sincerely believed. In a sense, they worshipped God in spirit, meaning that their heart was in it, but they didn’t worship Him in truth, meaning that their sincere acts were based on falsehoods and half-truths. What did Jesus say? Did He say to her, “Well, that’s OK. As long as your intent is good, your worship is acceptable before God”?

No, He didn’t.

We read His response in John 4, beginning in verse 23:

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24).

That’s our goal today—to enable ourselves to understand how to worship God not just in spirit and intent, but in truth. Truth matters.

So, let’s look at the question with honest eyes: Is Christmas a pagan holiday?

If we’re answering this question based on the origins of the day, then the answer is very clearly “yes.” Because the origins of Christmas as a holiday—its timing, its traditions, its ancient practices—are very clearly pagan.

Now, what does it mean to be “pagan”? After all, the word is thrown about a bit carelessly these days—in fact, there is a growing movement of “neo-paganism” today, which we have covered in detail in Tomorrow’s World magazine—the very same magazine you will get a free subscription to when you request today’s free resource, Is Christmas Christian?

Let’s make sure we’re clear, then. As Merriam-Webster defines it, “pagan” means: “of, relating to, or having the characteristics of pagans”—which, we are told, are “follower[s] of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome).”

Essentially paganism represents religions and cultic practices that have their origins outside of the religions traditionally associated with the patriarch Abraham: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

And if that is the definition of “pagan,” there is no doubt that the Christmas holiday and most of its traditions originated in pagan customs and worship traditions, many of which pre-date Christianity by centuries or even millennia.

Mistletoe is associated with Roman fertility rituals and Frigga, the Norse goddess of love and lust. The timing of Christmas corresponds not to Jesus’ birth—which was likely in the fall—but to the observance of the pagan Roman Saturnalia and sun worship. That is S-U-N. As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes:

In the 3rd century, the Roman Empire, which at the time had not adopted Christianity, celebrated the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) on December 25th. This holiday not only marked the return of longer days after the winter solstice but also followed the popular Roman festival called the Saturnalia (during which people feasted and exchanged gifts). It was also the birthday of the Indo-European deity Mithra, a god of light and loyalty whose cult was at the time growing popular among Roman soldiers (“Why Is Christmas in December?” Britannica.com).

The Christmas tree, too, is a tradition with an ancient pagan precedent. In fact, we can see that precedent condemned in Scripture. Look at Jeremiah 10 and read it with your favorite Christmas tree tradition in mind:

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good’” (Jeremiah 10:1–5).

The list of these ancient, pagan origins to various Christmas practices is long and clear. In fact, many popular, conservative authorities in modern Christianity readily admit that the pagan origin of many of the most common and honored Christmas traditions is a fact of history. Any historical resource of repute will confirm that fact.

For instance, consider this brief summary from the widely respected “Christian” resource Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity:

The Christian church took over many pagan ideas and images. From sun-worship, for example, came the celebration of Christ’s birth on the twenty-fifth of December, the birthday of the Sun. Saturnalia, the Roman winter festival of 17–21 of December, provided the merriment, gift-giving and candles typical of later Christmas holidays…. Some pagan customs which were later Christianized, for example the use of candles, incense and garlands, were at first avoided by the church because they symbolized paganism (1977, pp. 131–132).

And in his famous work A Classical Dictionary, scholar John Lemprière summarized some of the ancient, pre-Christian practices of the pagan holiday Saturnalia:

The celebration was remarkable for the liberty which universally prevailed. The slaves were permitted to ridicule their masters… It was usual for friends to make presents one to another, all animosity ceased, no criminals were executed, schools were shut, war was never declared, but all was mirth, riot, and debauchery.

If we are honest, surely we will admit that all of this sounds very familiar.

Christmas and its traditions and customs are deeply rooted in pagan origins. In that sense, yes, Christmas is a pagan holiday.

But still, is it really? Many argue that pagan activities, celebrations, traditions, and symbols have—in a sense—been “baptized” by Christianity. The holly branches and its red berries once had pagan meanings, true, but maybe now they can be used to symbolize Christ’s crown of thorns and the red blood He shed for our sins.

Perhaps the real answer is that Christmas was a pagan holiday, but it is no longer. People can certainly be baptized and have their lives transformed. Can pagan worship practices?

Worshiping God HIS Way

Sinners can repent and change. Can’t ancient pagan practices or traditions be sort of “baptized” and kept? After all, those who keep Christmas don’t believe they are worshiping the sun god or Saturn or Mithras or Baal or Frigga or any of those pagan gods. They are often trying to sincerely worship God and Jesus as they understand Them. Do the pagan origins of Christmas really matter?

The answer is a simple one: If we desire to worship God and Jesus Christ in a manner that is pleasing to them, not just pleasing to us, then yes—they matter very much.

Again, the issue is not one of opinion or feelings. It is a matter of truth. And if we want to know the truth about how God the Father and Jesus Christ think about these things, then we must go to the Bible They have given us to help us learn to think like them. And when we do go to the Scriptures, the answer is absolutely clear.

For instance, speaking of pagan peoples and pagan traditions and customs, God commanded ancient Israel very clearly in Deuteronomy 12:30:

“[D]o not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way…” (Deuteronomy 12:30–31).

This is crucial: Notice, the Bible doesn’t just say, “Don’t worship idols” or “Don’t worship foreign gods.” It says: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.” God makes it plain that He does not want His followers to worship Him in pagan ways. It doesn’t make a difference if we say we’re not worshiping Mithras or Saturn or the sun or whomever—God says plainly to us “do not worship me using pagan traditions.”

We saw a very similar command earlier when we read Jeremiah 10, in which God said clearly, “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles….” And here by “Gentiles,” God means those pagans outside the nation of Israel.

The commands in the Bible simply leave no room at all to conclude that God accepts worship using pagan customs—even if it is directed at Him.

Still, that’s the Old Testament, and some might argue that Jesus came to change all of that.

Yet, once again, if we go to His actual teachings—recorded for all time in our own Bibles—we find that this is not how He thinks at all about these things.

In fact, Jesus addresses this very scenario with His disciples and the Jewish leaders of His day. In Mark chapter 7, Jesus challenges the unbiblical traditions of the first-century Pharisees. They claimed to serve God with those traditions, but Jesus told them that their pious traditions actually violated God’s commands and were to be condemned. We can read His response in Mark 7, beginning in verse 6:

“He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” For LAYING ASIDE THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD, you HOLD THE TRADITION OF MEN… All too well you REJECT THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD, that you may KEEP YOUR TRADITION’” (Mark 7:6–9).

To observe Christmas, you would have to lay aside the commandment of God, who says plainly He does not want to be worshipped using heathen customs, so that you could hold on to your tradition. You would have to reject that commandment of God to keep that tradition. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the very founder of Christianity condemns doing that in no uncertain terms.

I can’t speak for you, but the idea of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, calling me a hypocrite sends chills down my spine. Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus condemned those who would dare to call Him “Lord” while ignoring His commands, asking,

“Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

The evidence is clear:

  • Christmas is a pagan holiday.
  • God does not want to be worshiped using pagan traditions.
  • And Jesus Christ condemns as hypocrites those who ignore God’s commands to keep other traditions.

So, with our original question answered, the next question is clear: What do we do now?

A Difficult Choice—Choosing Christ Over Christmas

We have only a brief time left on today’s program, but let me take a moment to say that—for those whose hearts are willing to follow God wherever He and His word lead us, following His lead and obeying His commands never leads us to a worse place. Only a better place.

For instance, I know of thousands of individuals, all over the world, who have left Christmas behind and have embraced, instead, the Holy Days actually revealed in the Bible—designed by God and recorded in His word as days set apart by Him for worship, praise, and instruction.

Those individuals—the members and attendees of the Living Church of God, who sponsor the Tomorrow’s World program—would say to you as plainly as I can now from here in this studio: As Christians and followers of Jesus Christ, they would not trade observing the biblical Holy Days for keeping Christmas for all the money in the world.

Moving past Christmas does not have to mean giving up joy and meaning and warmth and fellowship. Quite the opposite. When one turns away from deceptively attractive traditions and customs that fundamentally contradict the Bible to follow Jesus Christ—the real Jesus Christ—we have the opportunity to discover exactly what Jesus meant when He spoke to the woman by the well, almost 2,000 years ago, and spoke of worshiping God not only in spirit, but in spirit and in truth.

Thank you for watching our program, and we hope that it was helpful. All of us here at Tomorrow’s World produce these videos; people in front of the camera, behind the camera, in the control room, the fellow standing right next to me holding a light. We all work hard to help you understand your world through the pages of the Bible. If you like these videos, please click on the subscribe button as well as the little bell to be notified whenever we make more, and if you want today’s offer, just go down to the description and you’ll find the link.

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

Misletoe in front of a chalkboard.

Many have asked the question, but few are sincerely interested in the answer.

The Hope You Need!

Job security, relationships, unexpected change—much of our world today can make you struggle to cope or even keep up with it all. Watch this helpful video for three reasons you can have hope, no matter what life throws your way.

[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]

A Never-Ending Struggle?

For so many of us, life sometimes seems little more than a “stress machine.” News stories remind us that our social structures and systems of government are fracturing. The world around us seems almost a different planet in many ways since the pandemic began. Our personal lives, our health, our jobs, our relationships—all face mounting pressures that seem unrelenting. And the demands on us to somehow make “everything work” seem impossible to satisfy.

What we desperately need to move us forward, from one day to the next, is HOPE. But it seems that, no matter where we look, there is little REAL hope to be found. Yet I’m here to tell you today that there IS hope—REAL hope. There are solid reasons why you should look forward in confidence and face your challenges with courage and hope for the future.

Let us explain why the burdens you bear are not as heavy as you think they are. Join us right now on Tomorrow’s World as we give you “The Hope You Need!”

No Hiding From Reality

Greetings, and welcome to Tomorrow’s World, where we help you understand your world through the pages of your Bible. Thank you for joining us.

Is there no reason for hope in the world anymore?

One could be forgiven for asking that question, as the world around us seems unraveling at the seams.

But there are reasons for hope. Not “pie in the sky” hope, not the sort of “self-delusional” hope rooted in fantasy and avoiding reality. But real hope, grounded in the most fundamental truths we could ever hope to learn or understand. We are going to address three of those sources of hope today.

But first, let’s wrestle a bit with reality. Because real hope isn’t built on fantasy. It isn’t found in avoiding life or running away from our troubles—whether we literally run away from them by avoiding the things we fear, or whether we seek to hide in different ways, such as through alcohol and substance abuse, or filling our minds with all the diversions and distractions this world has to offer, so that there’s no room for reality to slip in and remind us of what we face in the real world.

No, if we want to embrace real hope, then we have to embrace real life, and accept it for what it is.

Not that I would blame anyone for wanting to hide. Our world is not the most encouraging place to live.

Our daily news feeds have little to offer us that is encouraging. Partially, this is because negative news sells more newspapers and captures more viewers. But, frankly, it is also because our world is truly in trouble. National systems of government that have served as models of stability and peaceful deliberation are crumbling. Of course, in democracies, the nature of governments and the nature of their citizens are intimately connected, and, sure enough, the problems we see in government reflect the problems of the people. Anger, violence, unrest—reflections of instability and uncertainty are on the rise.

Our program is viewed all around the world, but I live in the United States, and I can attest that our society is beginning to head in directions that are making it unrecognizable. Fault lines are widening and even the smallest of differences between people are prompting neighbors to treat each other as enemies—stirring up hatred with an almost animal-like viciousness.

Yes, tensions are high between nations, as the United States, Russia, and China compete for as much control as they can muster over an increasingly volatile and unpredictable world. But we don’t need to look to international news to see conflict, strife, and hatred. We are seeing it in our own cities and among our own neighbors.

Not a lot of hope to find there.

And that’s all besides the frequent stresses and concerns of our personal lives. Health problems, challenges at work, financial troubles, and relationship difficulties—sometimes even when we’re trying to do the right thing, it can seem like it doesn’t make a difference; as if no one sees our struggles and cares what we are going through; as if our efforts seem pointless, and we have no hope that there’s any meaning in it all.

We need hope that our efforts matter in this world. But where will we find that hope?

Science provides none. We have parted the curtain on the natural world and learned wondrous things, but nothing that provides transformative hope or true meaning to life. And as we noted earlier, the world of politics seems to be where hope goes to die, these days.

Modern living in developed nations provides virtually non-stop entertainment and distraction for those who can afford it—and while they can take our minds off of our troubles for a while, in the end, without real hope, those distractions leave us feeling emptier than we were before.

We need hope. Real, lasting, significant, profound hope. A hope rooted in things that transcend the world around us and provide deep, eye-opening meaning to our lives and experiences.

And, my friends, such hope really does exist.

A Living God, the True Source of Hope

Now we want to look at three sources of the hope you need. Now on first glance, they may seem trivial, but they represent the foundations of the only real hope that can make a significant difference in our lives. When we embrace these truths and all that they imply, the entire world—every aspect of our lives—begins to mean something different. And in that difference, we find the hope we need.

The first source of hope is this astonishing truth: God is REAL.

A long line of scientists, philosophers, and social engineers would love to convince you there is no God, no Designer, no Creator—that there’s nothing more to existence than what you can see.

My friends, that is a lie. Those who proclaim the lie may sincerely believe it, but a lie sincerely believed is still a lie.

In the Bible, King David expresses his opinion of those who deny the obvious truth about the existence of an Almighty Creator. He writes in Psalm 14 and verse 1,

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

And some of the best evidence for God’s existence can be found today just as readily as King David was able to see it. Consider the remarks of the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (vv. 18–21).

Note that Paul speaks of those who plainly see the evidence that we live in a universe created by an omnipotent, all-knowing God—the stars above our head, the orderly world around us, the intricate and complex designs of life. He notes that, just like one can detect the fingerprints of a master craftsman in the work He has created, those who look with open eyes and consider the evidence with humble hearts can see the fingerprints of their Creator.

In fact, Paul condemns those who suppress the truth they see and substitute lies, noting that they are without excuse for their rejection of the God they were unwilling to glorify.

That is a very real reaction to the created world and the obvious evidence of its Creator. We see it reflected in the words of Francis Crick, legendary biologist and co-discoverer of the exquisite structure of the DNA molecule. A die-hard evolutionist, Crick was writing about the mindset his fellow biologists must take as they examine the remarkable design and engineering of life:

“Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved” (Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, 1988, p. 138).

Similarly, famous evolutionist Richard Dawkins has written:

“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” (Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, p. 1).

Why must biologists, quote, “constantly keep in mind” that what they are looking at was not designed? Why is it that we must assume life only has, quote, “the appearance of being designed for a purpose”?

Because the evidence points overwhelmingly to life having been designed for a purpose.

The proofs of God’s existence are profound and more numerous than we can cover in this brief program. But I encourage you to explore our website, TomorrowsWorld.org, where you can find a number of resources to help you prove the existence of God for yourself.

So why is God’s existence one reason we can have hope?

There are many answers to that question, and some of them are tied to what’s coming later in today’s program. But think about it for a moment.

So much of modern science—even when it does not say so explicitly—tends to communicate a sense of meaningless. Hopelessness. If there is no God, there really is no meaning—we really are alone, sometimes, in a cruel world in which no one cares.

But… if God does exist—and He does—then we need never feel alone. If God does exist, then even in our greatest moments of despair, we have someone to cry out to for help, for mercy, for understanding! We have someone who understands what we’re going through, who sees our trials, who is willing to go through them with us.

In fact, in Genesis 16:13, when the Egyptian handmaiden Hagar is fleeing from the anger of her mistress, Sarai, she notes God’s encouraging presence, and calls Him “El Roi”—The God Who Sees.

God’s willingness to be with us in our most difficult trials was illustrated in the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, who is God just as His Father is. He is not distant, aloof, and above our sufferings. Rather, Jesus Christ came to this world to live among us and experience what we experience. The book of Hebrews explains this aspect of Jesus’ life, noting that

“… in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:7–8).

God is real. He knows our suffering, our trials, and our burdens. Nothing we do happens in some lonely vacuum—instead, the One who wove our very lives together understands what we are going through, and is open to hearing the cries, fears, and requests of all who are willing to open themselves to Him.

You are not alone. God is very real.

There are profound implications of this, and those implications provide additional hope in our lives.

Jesus LIVES for Your Future

The second reason for hope is the beautiful truth that Jesus Christ is RETURNING.

Many mainstream “Christian” churches fall into one of two ditches—either they focus so much on “spiritual” things that they do little earthly good, or else they focus on trying to change this world through politics and policymaking, as if Jesus Christ were interested in ruling this broken world through its broken, carnal mechanisms. The former make the truths of the Bible seem unconnected to the world we live in today and the lives we live in that world, and the latter inevitably end up corrupted themselves, forgetting that the real Jesus Christ calls us to something very different than participating in the ways of this world.

Yet, Jesus Christ has not abandoned this world to its own devices. The news we see can sadden us, frustrate us, even anger us. All around us we see the guilty going free, those who do harm not held to account, and a world that is increasingly brutal—more like the animal world than the world of human beings.

But after Jesus Christ was resurrected, as He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives, His disciples were told something very important—the only real source of hope this world has for its future.

As the Savior of mankind rose higher and higher into the sky and the disciples watched on, angels appeared next to them to declare some remarkable good news:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

This is important, because this foundational truth of true Christianity has been spiritualized away and diminished by so many of the different strains of counterfeit Christianity that currently fill the churches of this world.

The angels were explicit: In the same manner in which he ascended to heaven, He would one day descend back to this earth. Just as He physically ascended, He will one day physically return.

And that event, the return of Jesus Christ, will be the turning point of all of human history. It is the heart of the true gospel—or good news—preached by Jesus Christ during His three-and-one-half year ministry on earth. For when He returns, He will establish the Kingdom of God here on earth, which will grow to reign over every square inch of this planet.

All the horrors and injustices and heartbreaking suffering that we see streamed in our newsfeeds will become things of the past, tossed into the dustbin of history, and replaced by the glorious reign of Jesus Christ and His glorified saints under God the Father.

The horrific suffering of this present world—suffering that pricks our hearts and prompts us to search for even the smallest reason to hope that somehow something will change—that suffering is caused, ultimately, by Satan the Devil, called by Jesus Christ Himself the “ruler of this world” no less than three times in the book of John.

In fact, it’s the Apostle John who highlights this vital element of Jesus Christ’s mission, noting in 1 John 3 and verse 8 that

“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

All the suffering, all the injustice, all the wars, all the greed and filth and malice that corrupts this world and causes us such grief—all of it will be taken away with the coming of the Kingdom of God and the reign of the Son of God.

The prophet Isaiah characterizes that reign, noting that those living in Tomorrow’s World will look at their new ruler and be moved to praise Him by the lives they now live, noting,

“His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Later, in chapter 35, Isaiah describes that soon-coming world by noting the great miracles, healings, and even geological rejuvenation that will take place, saying,

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert” (vv. 5–6).

When the news we see on our screens seems to be sliding into a state of almost permanent despair, and we begin to think that there is no hope, we can rest assured that nothing escapes the eyes of God and Jesus Christ. No injustice, no wrong, no harm, no suffering—and we can pray to God all the more fervently as Jesus taught us, saying, “Your Kingdom come.”

Jesus IS returning to this world and will not leave it doomed to mankind’s folly. And that is, indeed, a great source of hope.

A Future You Can Believe In, a God You Can Trust

Today we’ve discussed two fundamental sources of the hope you need to face the future—and the present—with courage and confidence:

  1. God is REAL.
  2. (And) Jesus Christ is RETURNING.

But there is one more we want to discuss that is intimately tied to these two and to your future:

  1. Your life has a PURPOSE.

You were made by God to one day be a member of His own family—experiencing life and reality just as He and His Son do now, and inheriting not only the Earth, but the entire universe as your possession, reigning and ruling as a Child of God forever.

It seems beyond belief—the stuff of science fiction. But I stand here today telling you that it is the firm declaration of God’s word—no matter how many misguided philosophers, preachers, and theologians try to hide it or dilute it, and no matter how incredibly shocking it might seem.

And understanding this transforms the first two sources of hope. Because God is real, His plan and purpose for us is real—and if anyone has the power to make His purpose for us come to pass, it is Almighty God. And when Jesus Christ returns, He brings with Him our reward: Transformation into the glorified Children of God, with divine power to make a difference—first in this world, reigning under Jesus for 1,000 years, then throughout the entirety of Creation, as we inherit all things, forever.

You were created for so much more than this life.

The mind-blowing purpose God has for your life has been hidden in plain sight—under your nose all the time, just waiting for you to discover it.

Discover your purpose—and discover an unending and undefeatable source of the very hope you need.

And I hope that this program has been a blessing to you. Please join us again next time—Gerald Weston, Richard Ames, Rod McNair and I will be right here waiting for you, ready to talk about the true teachings of Jesus Christ, the end-time prophecies of the Bible, and the truly good news of the Kingdom of God. Until we see you again, take care.

Thank you so much for watching! We here at Tomorrow’s World really do work hard to help you make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible. If you’d like today’s free offer, there is a link in the description where you can find it, and if you’d like more of this material and to be notified when it comes out, then click the “subscribe button” and be sure to click on the little bell. Again, thanks for watching, and we’ll see you again.