Life is short! It’s much shorter than we might have thought when we first became aware that someday our lives would come to an end. Young lovers sometimes romanticize about marrying, raising families, and growing old together, but the reality of this last phase is not so romantic, as age brings with it a number of problems and realizations. And one of those realizations is that life is indeed short, and the time for accomplishments is running out.
Sadly, the majority have no idea regarding the purpose for their existence. Life to them is a matter of cramming into it as much fun and pleasure as they can. They neither think about nor know of any purpose beyond the grave. Few truly find the concept of heaven exciting, but avoiding what they have been taught might happen if they don’t go to heaven is what drives many to put in appearances at their place of worship. In effect, they have a “just-in-case” religion, because few people put much effort into really preparing for an afterlife! The here-and-now takes precedence.
What about you? Do you live your life as though you are truly seeking immortality? After all, either the afterlife is a reality or it isn’t. There can be no other way! So what is it for you? Are you living your life with the resurrection in mind? Or do you “do religion” or go to church for an hour each week, just in case there is an afterlife, or a judgment of some kind?
I want to relate to you something that happened recently. I attended a performance of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” with some friends, and I noticed that few in the audience were following the program notes. Unless their ears were better than mine, they would have had difficulty following the story. Charlotte, North Carolina is in the heart of the American “Bible Belt,” and it is likely that many were at least somewhat familiar with the biblical account, but I had to wonder, “How many truly understand it?” Apparently not many, and here is why I say that.
What exactly did Elijah mean when he asked: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21)? Was this a question for that time only? After all, one might ask, “Who worships Baal today?”
The New Bible Commentary Revised sheds light on this question. “It seems to be literally, ‘Till when are you hopping at two forks?’ The sin of the people had been not in rejecting the worship of Yahweh, but in trying to combine it with the worship of Baal. Such syncretism is always considered to be broad-minded, whereas the other is narrow-minded. But Yahweh of Israel left no room for other gods” (Guthrie, Motyer, eds., 1970, p. 343).
It is indisputable that today’s professing Christianity is a syncretism—a mixture of biblical and pagan practices. The chosen day for worship comes from Mithraism, a form of sun worship. The date chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ is the birthday of Mithra, the “god” of that system. Almost all the trappings of Christmas have been “borrowed” from multiple pagan practices. The name “Easter” comes from the pagan goddess of spring and fertility, Ishtar—a goddess also known by other names, such as Astarte and Ashtoreth. Bunnies and eggs are well-known fertility symbols and have absolutely nothing to do with the crucifixion and resurrection. (To learn more about Christmas and Easter, request your free copy of Is Christmas Christian? and Easter the Untold Story.)
In today’s professing Christianity, clear biblical commands are rejected. The seventh-day Sabbath, one of the Ten Commandments, is rejected, as are the annual Holy Days that were kept by Christ, His apostles, and first-century Christianity. But, the deception goes much deeper.
It is not merely a matter of the wrong day or wrong Holy Days. The very Gospel Christ brought has been substituted by “another gospel.” The true Jesus Christ would not be recognized today, and there is an entirely different spirit found in modern “Christianity” from that of original Christianity (2 Corinthians 11:4). The pagan doctrine of the immortal soul is almost universally accepted by professing Christians, whereas the Bible teaches no such thing. On the contrary, it tells us “this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). This false immortal soul doctrine flies in the face of Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Yes, what we earn by sin is death, not eternal life in hell fire. Eternal life is not something we already have, but is a “gift of God.” And there is much, much more.
But do people get it? Apparently not! The people of Elijah’s time didn’t get it, and the people of today are no different. Facts do not seem to matter. People go right on worshiping God in a way that displeases Him, because they do not tremble at His word. Even the idea of trembling at His word is foreign and harsh sounding. Yet, God informs us through His prophet Isaiah: “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word… Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, so will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear; but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight” (Isaiah 66:2–4).
Mendelssohn casts Elijah and the king’s servant as witnesses against the people, and God has called people throughout the centuries to fulfill such roles. There is coming a day yet ahead of us when two individuals will be empowered by God to witness against our rebellious world in miraculous ways. We are told in Revelation 11, “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days… These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire” (vv. 3, 6).
The role that these two individuals will play will be very much like that of the prophets of old, performing miracles and explaining to the nations their need to repent. Sadly, however, the story of ancient Israel reminds us that even in the presence of divine miracles and displays of God’s power, many don’t truly repent and change. And even when they do, eventually they simply return to old, comfortable, sinful habits. History records that this was certainly true of ancient Israel, who—time and time again—were warned of the consequences of their choices, but never saw the big picture.
And just as ancient Israel didn’t get it, neither do people today get it! Some are deceived into believing atheistic evolution. Others have grown up in non-Christian cultures. But those growing up in what they believe to be biblically based religions are also deceived. They are deceived into thinking they can mix pagan doctrines and practices with those of the Bible. God is no more pleased today than He was when Ahab and Jezebel mixed Baal worship with the worship of the true God.
But what this really comes down to is you. If there is life after death, the choices you make today do matter. It really does not matter what your neighbor does. Do you get it? If so, what are you doing about it? Will you continue mixing “Baal worship” with the worship of the true God? Or do you have the courage to change your life and find others who are not “bowing the knee to Baal”? If you are interested in meeting with others, please contact us at your nearest regional office, as shown on page 4 of this magazine.