Do we read what the Bible says, or what we think it says?
People misread things all the time. Instructions say, “Do this,” but people read, “Do that,” because they are distracted, they have their mind on something else, or they simply misread the instruction for what they think it says instead of what it really says.
A friend of mine once thought he had won a prize of thousands of dollars. He had received a sweepstakes mailing and was excited about the prospect of having won, but I expressed skepticism—I had seen similar contest mailings that make you think you have won when you have not. He asked me to come over and read it for myself. I quickly read the mailing, then read it aloud to my friend, carefully emphasizing the key sentences. He then understood that he had misread it. In my friend’s defense, I must say that it was poorly written—perhaps purposely in order to mislead the reader.
People misread the Bible, too. Long-held, ingrained beliefs cloud one’s ability to read a scripture for what it actually says. So many preconceived notions can cloud a person’s mind. We can “read into” the word of God our own ideas—but the Scriptures should be carefully and objectively read to find out what God is truly saying.
For example, the Bible plainly says the dead will be resurrected (e.g., Luke 20:35). Not many would argue against the idea of a resurrection of the just, but some would argue about when it occurs. Most who call themselves Christians believe that people immediately go to heaven or hell when they die. But the Bible makes very clear that no resurrection from the dead occurs until Christ’s return.
Paul shows this very clearly in his first epistle to the Thessalonians: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:15–16).
Jesus said, “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39–40). “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 54).
John 11 tells us that when Lazarus died, Jesus came to raise him back to physical life. Jesus said to Martha, “‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day’” (vv. 23–24). Martha knew when the resurrection will take place.
Christ also said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:2–3). When? When He comes again! “Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52).
Reading God’s word through the lens of our preconceptions is a real obstacle to ever discovering we were wrong. After all, it is hard to learn something new when we are fully convinced we already know the answer!
But if we can set aside what we think we know, we will be astonished at what truths have been staring us in the face all along, hiding in plain sight.
It is truly amazing what we can learn when we simply read the Bible for what it says. To learn more about what it really says, request a free copy of What Happens When You Die? or download it from TomorrowsWorld.org.