THE WORD OF GOD
A LAYMAN'S LOOK AT THE BIBLE
ByZander Dell Raines
COPYRIGHT, 1997-APOCALYPSE PRODUCTIONS
THE NEW TESTAMENT-AD 1 to AD 100
QUIZ-Who or what are the above pictures?-(Click pictures for answers.)
THE COMING OF THE MESSIAH
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.-Malachi 4:5-6
These are the closing verses of the Old Testament. The prophet Malachi spoke them to Israel around 400 BC. After these words God grew silent for 4 centuries. The Jews, faithful to their calling, gathered together at Jerusalem the 39 books that God had given them over the previous 1,400 years. These books would become the canon, or measuring rod, of the Jewish faith.
For 400 years, God's people waited. They were no longer a free nation. They had only returned to their homeland because God had moved on their conquerors, the Medo-Persians, to allow them to return. A century passed and the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, conquered Israel. Two more centuries and the Romans defeated the Greeks and also conquered the Holy Land. By the turning of the millennium, all of God's people are crying out for their king to come and free them at last.
Then stories began to spread around Jerusalem concerning angels, shepherds, wise men from the east, and a child in Bethlehem. Immediately King Herod the Great ordered all the babies around Jerusalem, from Bethlehem in the south to Ramah in the north killed. Within a matter of days Herod himself dies under the judgment of God, and little else is heard of this miracle child.
Thirty years later, the forerunner mentioned by Malachi came forth in answer to God's last Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 3:1-3). Just as the prophets of old, John the Baptist speaks with the power of God, and the people flock to hear him. Although his ministry only lasted a few, short months, it is long enough for him to carry out the mission he was given; to baptize the Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Luke 3:21-23).
For centuries, Israel had waited for the Messiah to come. Someone else has been waiting also. He was actually the one who had directed the killing of anyone that he thought might lay claim to the title of Messiah and free mankind from his evil grip. Thus it is that the stage is set for the greatest conflict of all time as Jesus enters the wilderness to fast, pray, and confront his age-old adversary, with the fate of all mankind hanging in the balance.
THE POWER OF GOD'S WORD
And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. - Matthew 4:3-4
There are two points we need to look at here. First, in his haste to defeat Jesus, the devil tips his own hand. He calls Jesus the Son of God. Yet part of the Mystery Babylon doctrine (Revelation 17) throughout history has been that there is not "the Son of God". This system has always tried to deceive men into believing there were many sons of God sent out to help mankind from time to time. The devil has told this lie in the hope of causing the true Christ to be lost in a sea of false Christs to further deceive man.
The second point is that Christ's answer to Satan shows us the only weapon that He, or any of us, need to successfully defeat our common enemy. Jesus' words "It is written" refers here to the Hebrew Old Testament writings that still existed in His day. The Hebrew original autographs were long since gone and the only scriptures that Jesus, or anyone else at that time would have had, would have been copies of copies of those originals. These same scriptures carry the same power to beat Satan every time that he attacks us.
Having failed the first time, the devil now tries a different angle. He tries to use the word of God to try to trip up the Son of God. It had worked on Adam and Eve, so he figures it would work on Jesus.
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.-Matthew 4:5-7
Jesus knows that Satan is twisting scriptures here. Jesus also knew that no true Bible doctrine can be built on just one verse. It must be tested to see that the idea that we seem to get from it does not contradict with the rest of the word of God. Jesus shows this by calling up other scriptures to defeat the devil's false doctrine. So Satan gives up this line of attack, knowing he is beaten here also. He then tries one more angle, the direct approach.
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.-Matthew 4:8-10
Now Satan plays his trump card. Why suffer, Jesus? Why die? All you have to do is bow down and worship me for one moment, and I'll give it all back to you. Jesus knows Satan owns the world. He doesn't dispute that. He also knows that in this way he could avoid the death of the cross. Jesus also knows, however, that if He is given the world now, all the Old Testament prophecies concerning His suffering and death will prove untrue, and this would make His Father a liar, so He will not take the prize as it is offered.
Strike one...Strike two...Strike three...You're out, Satan! The devil has to leave Jesus for now, and the angels come and minister to Jesus. This is just as the angels will do for us if we will just stand up and use the word of God when attacked by the devil and unbelief.
Now Jesus takes the path as laid out by His Father in His word. For the next 3 1/2 years He will preach, heal the sick, and raise the dead. During this time, Jesus repeatedly shows His followers the importance of understanding and believing in God's word
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.-Matthew 24:35
Over and over again, during his ministry, Jesus drives home the point that it is His holy word that we are to use to lead us into all truth. He also makes it very plain that His words will always be with us (Matthew 24:35). Finally He is betrayed, crucified, and raised from the dead on the third day. It is after His resurrection that He opens the understanding of the apostles to the prophecies concerning His true mission on earth.
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.- Luke 24:44-48
In a short time it is revealed to the apostles the meaning of all the Old Testament prophecies about His death and resurrection. Thus is the first of many mysteries that are hidden within the Old Testament revealed to man. With the end of Jesus' teachings, He ascends to the Father once again.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.-Acts 1:8-9
Jesus's last words are His marching orders for the apostles and all believers since that time. Jerusalem was the city they were in. Judea was the country they were in. Samaria was the land of their neighbors. The uttermost part of the earth means exactly what it says. These orders were binding on the twelve apostles for the rest of their lives, and it is still binding on the church today.
In addition to this group of believers, God would have a massive army that would grow over the coming years. One of these soldiers was originally named Saul of Tarsus, and his testimony is a very sad and moving one.
And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.- Acts 22:19-21
With these words ringing in his ears, the Apostle Paul gives the rest of his life to preaching the gospel that he had tried so hard to destroy.
THE APOSTLE PAUL
On his second missionary journey, the Apostle Paul preached at one of the greatest cities of the world of that day (Acts 17:15-17). It was while at Athens that Paul wrote his first letter to a church around AD 50. Little could he know that this letter to the church at Thessalonica would become part of the New Testament scriptures (I Thessalonians 1:1).
Timothy delivered this letter to Thessalonica, and later brought back a reply to Paul. It was this reply that prompted Paul to write his second letter to the church at Thessalonica
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.-II Thessalonians 2:1-2
It is clear that Satan is already circulating false letters and even signing Paul's name to them to cause confusion among the brethren. As Jesus had warned, the wolves have already begun to enter the flock. Through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Paul tells the church how to deal with this problem (II Thessalonians 3:14-15).
During the rest of Paul's missionary journeys, the books of Romans, I and II Corinthians, and Galatians were written. Also during this time, Paul's fellow traveler Luke wrote his gospel. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns that the original trap set by Satan in the garden of Eden is still at work in the New Testament world (II Corinthians 11:2-3).
The original attack against Eve was launched with a single question, "Yea, hath God said?". It worked so well on Adam and Eve that the devil's been using it on us ever since that time. Questioning our faith in the word of God is still the devil's main business. This is also the trap laid for the church at Galatia (Galatians 1:6-9).
By the time of the writing of Galatians, it has become easy to see how greatly God is using the Apostle Paul to build up the church. The devil sees it too and has Paul imprisoned, first at Jerusalem, then at Rome, the world capital of that day. As always the devil plays right into God's hands because it is during his imprisonment that Paul is able to write more letters than ever before to admonish the church. While in prison, Paul writes letters to the Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and his own people, the Hebrews. Paul's last four letters, however, are written to individual workers in the body of Christ.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.-I Timothy 1:1-2
Timothy, who was saved under Paul's preaching, became a great worker in the early church. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy to strengthen him in his walk with Christ. Timothy was not alone is Paul's heart during his last days on the earth either (Titus 1:1-4). Paul's concern is not only for the large, growing churches, but also for the small ones, such as the church at Crete where Titus was a member. It is not until we get to Paul's last letter, however, that we see the clearest picture of what Paul's heart was truly like.
Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow labourer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in thy house:-Philemon 1:1-2
Here is a church that is so small that it meets in the home of the pastor. The main reason for Paul's letter to Philemon is to ask him to take back a runaway slave named Onesimus, who was saved while with Paul and now wishes to return to his old home. Paul's last letter shows that he cared for men's souls not simply as a group of numbers, but as individuals, one at a time. May we all have the heart of Paul in our dealing with those we know, one by one.
In AD 67 Nero, emperor of Rome, had the Apostle Paul beheaded. The man who had written 14 books of the New Testament is silenced, but God is already raising up others to carry on His message. God is still doing that today.
At the church in Jerusalem, one of the original twelve apostles writes two letters to strengthen his fellow believers.
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:-II Peter 1:1
At about the same time that Peter is writing, the disciples named Matthew and Mark write their gospels. Then Jesus' own half-brother James writes the New Testament letter that carries his name. Peter warns the flock about the wolves that Jesus and Paul had already spoken of.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.-II Peter 2:1-2
Now the devil is truly enraged. For thousands of years, he has killed prophets, priests, preachers, and all others to stamp out the message, and still the word of God goes forth. Now the devil sets about to destroy the word of God by destroying it at its source. He raises up the armies of Rome and in AD 70 Jerusalem, the holy city, is burned to the ground. God has known the devil's intentions all along. So, way ahead of time, the center of the church had already moved 300 miles to the north to the city of Antioch. This is why, within 5 years of the fall of Jerusalem, another of Jesus' half-brothers is able to write yet another of the New Testament letters.
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.-Jude 1:1-4
Again comes the warning! The ungodly have already slipped into the church! Beware of the enemy that is in our midst! Contend for the faith that was first given by our Lord Jesus Christ to the church! The entire book of Jude is dedicated to this important warning to believers. About this time, Paul's fellow-laborer Luke writes his second book about the early growth of the church (Acts 1:1-3). In spite of the assaults of the enemy, God's church still goes forth carrying the message of the ages.
THE SEALING OF SCRIPTURES
The last of the New Testament writers is also one of the most prolific. His writings include one gospel, three letters, and the only New Testament book given totally to prophecy.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.-Revelation 1:1-2
John was the last of the apostles alive on the earth. He was called the beloved apostle, not because of a special standing with God, but because he was the youngest of the original twelve, and Jewish custom has always been to call the baby of the family the beloved one.
John the Beloved was the pastor of the church at Ephesus. Because of his faith, the Romans tried to have him killed, without success, and finally exiled this 80-year old saint of God to the island prison of Patmos, hoping he will die there. It is here that God gives John his vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Finally John is freed from Patmos and returns to his work at Ephesus. It is here that John begins his final and greatest work. As we have already seen, the devil has sent false teachers into the church, even forging letters in the apostles' names to confuse the brethren. Over and over God has warned of this happening.
Now John begins the process of choosing from this mass of different letters the 27 books that are truly inspired by the Holy Ghost. These books become the canon, or measuring rod, of the original Greek New Testament. These books, along with the original Hebrew Old Testament, become the complete and entire written word of God. To insure this, God even places a terrible curse at the end of the final book of the Scriptures.
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.-Revelation 22:18-19
Thus was the Bible written and sealed. However that was nearly 2,000 years ago. What's happened to the Bible since then? We have dozens of books today, each of which claims to be the word of God, but which one is the real one? The devil has tried to destroy the word of God. When that didn't work, he tried to make people disregard it, and when that didn't work, he has tried to lose it in a flood of corrupt copies and, in some cases, outright lies. In spite of all of this God's word has survived and, as Jesus said, "Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away!".