So much in the world around us is unknowable. We make ourselves at home, but are we really at home? Just think of the world of unknown creatures that roam the sea–that place of eternal darkness about which we have yet to learn-- seven miles below the surface . Do we think of the millions–yes, millions of cave dwelling bats , nocturnal flying mammals who live on nectar, insects, as well as flesh and blood? And bizarre carnivorous plants that perform their ghoulish acts on unsuspecting insects in a secretive act we cannot understand. These three examples of myriad strange world phenomena cry out for a God, a creator Who exists. We believe He is there, but we must wonder, is He just ? Blind people, the insane, the grossly malformed, cannibals–who inhabit this world, what purpose do they serve? We witness the nature of a non understandable existence; life is flawed; it persists in endless cycles of birth and death of bats, fish, plants and mankind himself. And what is the purpose in this apparent continuum of life? With none of its creatures enduring. Is that all there is? Endless cycles of flawed life? Well, listen to Job, who says,
Man that is born of a woman
Is of few days, & full of trouble.
He comes forth like a flower, and is cut down;
He flees also as a shadow
And continues not. (14. 1, 2)
His remembrance shall perish from the earth,
He shall have no name in the street (18. 17)
The universal response to these verses is that there must be more to life than this. Most men do not want life to end–the finality is too hard to bear–they yearn for a state of immortality. Philosophers and poets have preached as much. At how many funerals do mourners listen to the preacher recite Tennyson’s poem Crossing the Bar?
Sunset and evening star , and one clear call for me. . .may there be no sadness of farewell when I embark. . .when I have crossed the bar.
The intimation of the state of man immortal may offer some solace at the time, but when you think about it, there is no real meaning to it, only fatuous symbolism. It is pure fiction. Another revered poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in an attempt to justify the reality of death and its finality said the famous words, "There is no death, what seems so is transition". A psychologist would say that this is only a way of expressing man’s greatest fear of destruction, feeding the instinct of self preservation. Interesting poetry, but no proof that this transition is a fact when everyone knows it’s based on an untruth. Of course the cycle can end, but not in the way Longfellow envisioned things. In the cycle of this planet featuring population growth, greenhouse effect, holes in ozone layer, germ warfare, atomic warfare–of all these things, why worry? If purposeless, what difference does it make? Unborn generations will be spared. The psychologist’s blind instinct of self preservation is bound ultimately to fail.
Theologians would say with all this dismal speculation, ‘you left out God’. Scientists and natural philosophers cannot show us evidence of divine purpose other than cycles of life. Let us consider the evidence that supports God’s way, and a deeper understanding of the basic truths of the universe. In a long ago 15th century hymn are the words,
Christ the Lord is risen again,
Christ hath broken every chain (the cycle chain)
Is this wishful thinking? In John 20 we read the account of what happened to Jesus after he was buried. Mary Magdalene, Peter and John himself found the tomb empty. Christ had risen. Now why should you believe it? If it’s just a story, like a fairy story–Sleeping Beauty vs Christ–there’s one big difference. Sleeping Beauty did not exist. She was a make believe character. Christ existed. He is an historical person. He actually lived, so historians tells us–for one, Josephus (37 - 100 AD), a Jew, a historian and a general in the Jewish army. He spoke of Christ, the man who did good works, who was condemned by Pilate, but appeared alive again the third day The four gospel writers in their separate writings all say he was raised. Then there was Paul–smart Paul, educated Paul, Paul the avowed enemy of the Christian movement, testified how Christ was seen of 500 and more, including himself on the Damascus road. Before King Agrippa he avowed that this thing , this resurrection, was not done in a corner.
Consider Peter, who boasted to Christ before his agony, Lord, I am ready to go with you, both into prison and into death. (Luke 22. 33). Let me tell you Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before you shall deny me three times. (Luke 22. 34). And what happened? Weak Peter, disloyal Peter, a prisoner of his very humanity, caused him to weep bitterly at what he did. After the resurrection, however, and imbued with the power of the holy spirit, in the company of John the disciple , he cured the lame man who sat at the gate of the temple called Beautiful. Look at us Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. (Acts 3. 6) Peter’s words and actions after that miracle were a complete turnabout into a strong and courageous man, one totally dedicated to the Christian movement who preached repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.
Consider now the evidence that supports God’s purpose in this earth we inhabit, to wit, to intervene in the affairs of man, to glorify the earth with the establishment of His promised kingdom where believers made immortal like Christ shall dwell. If you consider the following prophecies, no one totally convincing alone, but when viewed with others as a whole, truth emerges. The integrity of the whole preserves its parts. One part in brief is the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image of the four world empires–kingdoms of men-- that lead ultimately to the kingdom of God on earth. (See under Prophecy, Kingdoms of this world for further detail). A second part of the whole is the prophecy of the seventy weeks written in Daniel 9. Without going into the detail that scholars agree upon, this time period between the decree to re-build Jerusalem ( issued by Cyrus in 538 BC) , until the coming of "the anointed one" in 26 AD is pinpointed at the time of Christ’s baptism. The essence of this prophecy is that it would be 70 weeks until the coming of the Messiah. Thus Daniel foretold the time Jesus would appear, the duration of his ministry and his death as well. A third part is where it is said that Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Luke 21. 24) Some think that time is here; certainly it is almost here–very near. Finally, the re-gathered Jews who are the life blood of the whole story. After many centuries they are re-gathered in the land of Israel, as predicted innumerable times in the scriptures. Now when the whole is equal to the sum of its parts, we cannot overlook the resurrection.
To consider the evidence, read the books and study the prophecies that explain and uphold these few aforementioned truths. Let’s no longer argue with God as Job did ,(who didn’t like what he saw). How can we say to Him who made us, why have you made me like this? Who are we, after all, to reply against God? Let’s honor His word before that of the poet. And let us remember what Jesus said:
I am he that lives and was dead.
And, behold, I am alive forevermore.
And I have the keys of death and death’s dominion. (Rev 1. 18)