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Biblical Myths - Part 2

Scripture: Jeremiah 10:1-6, Mark 9:43-44, Isaiah 51:8
There are many myths people follow based on man's traditions instead of the Word of God. Some of these myths center around Christmas. Another deals with what happens when someone dies. Is there a hell? Do people burn there eternally?
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On today's broadcast, and for the next few days, we want to examine some very common Biblical myths. Now, don't get the wrong idea, friends. Let me state without reservations that the Amazing Facts broadcast stands firmly on the platform of the inspiration and accuracy of the Bible. We have no sympathy whatever with the modernist school that tries to explain away God's clear instructions by calling them myths.

No, the type of myths we want to explore today are myths that man has made up, false teachings that claim support from the Scriptures. Frequently we get letters asking about these very topics. While all letters to Amazing Facts are answered personally, we like to answer publicly on the radio some questions that are often asked. Many, many of our listeners have asked if Christmas trees are not condemned in the Bible. Some believe it is a sin to have a tree on the basis of Jeremiah 10:1-6. Now friends, let me make this very clear. I have no defense to make for the observing of pagan days, and there is absolutely no doubt but that December 25 is based upon the ancient pagan worship of the sun god. I do not believe that we can attach any religious sanctity to the day we call Christmas. On the other hand, I believe we must be very careful not to twist the Word of God to mean something that it doesn't really mean. Let's look at the text in question. "Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not; they must needs be borne because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O Lord, thou art great and thy name is great in might."

This text has been used as condemnation of Christmas trees, and a casual reading sounds as though the writer had the modern Christmas decorations in mind. But the context of the chapter places a completely new meaning upon the words. Jeremiah is describing the ways of the heathen in cutting a tree from the forest and carving an idol which is worshipped as a god. In verse 14 he speaks of the "graven image" as a false god: "there is no breath in them." "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth" are contrasted with the creative power of the true God in verses 10-12. After cutting the tree and shaping it with the axe, Jeremiah says that it is decorated and fastened with nails (verse 3,4) where it remains, dumb and unheeding. It cannot speak or walk. Verse 5. To worship the "stock" of a tree is "brutish and foolish." Verse 8. Even though it is covered with silver plate and delicate clothing, it remains a "doctrine of vanities." Verses 8,9.

Our next problem involves a doctrine held by many thousands of sincere Christians, but it has no basis in the Scripture. It is the doctrine of eternal torment, that God will torture the wicked for all eternity. According to this teaching, they will suffer forever in a hell that is under the control of Satan himself.

One of the texts that we are often asked to explain is Mark 9:43,44. "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." In this verse, "hell" is translated from the Greek word "Gehenna" which is another name for the Valley of Hinnon just outside the walls of Jerusalem. There the refuse and bodies of animals were cast into an ever-smoldering fire to be consumed. What might escape from the flames was constantly being destroyed by maggots which fed on the dead bodies. Gehenna symbolized a place of total destruction. Jesus taught in this verse that the fires of hell could not be quenched or put out by anyone. Isaiah said, "they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame." Isaiah. 47:14. Yet he hastened to say in the same verse, "there shall not be a coal to warm at nor a fire to sit before it." So the unquenchable fire will go out after it has consumed the wicked as stubble." Jeremiah 17:27 says that Jerusalem burned with unquenchable fire, but it was totally destroyed as recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:19-21.

The flames and worms of Gehenna represented the total annihilation and obliteration of sin and sinners. Earlier apostasy and idol worship in the Valley of Hinnon and God's judgments on Israel as a consequence, marked it as a symbol of punishment and judgment. God warned that it would become the "valley of slaughter" where the carcases of this people shall be meat for the fowls of heaven." Jeremiah 7:31-34. With the fires of Gehenna burning before their eyes, Jesus could not have spoken a more graphic word to the Pharisees to describe the final total destruction of sinners.

Those who cite this text to support their doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul are thrown into a real dilemma. Why? Because the fire and worms are working, not upon disembodied souls but BODIES. According to Jesus those who are cast into that lake of fire will go in bodily form, and this text confirms that truth. The verses before and after this text speak of the hands, feet and bodies of those who suffer the Gehenna fire. In Matthew 5:30 Christ said, "The whole body" would be cast into hell. In Isaiah 66:24 the same Gehenna picture of hell is presented with the unquenchable flame and the destroying worms. But in this case "carcasses" is used, revealing the fact that the fire consumes dead bodies not disembodied souls. Speaking of the enemies of the Lord, Isaiah says, "the worm shall eat them like wool," Isaiah 51:8, a picture of being put out of existence.

On the same topic is the experience of King Saul of Israel with the witch of Endor. It is found in 1 Samuel 28:7-20. The story is briefly this: Saul was worried about the outcome of an upcoming battle with the Philistines. He asked God to reveal the outcome to him, but Saul, by his sins had separated himself from God and God would not answer him. That point is important to remember, friends. When God wouldn't answer him, Saul went to a spiritualist medium. But God had previously directed Saul to rid the country of all such mediums. So the witch of Endor conjured up an apparition. Let's pick up the story in verse 14: "And he said unto her, what form is he of? And she said, an old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself." This spiritualistic seance has been cited as evidence for life after death. But here are points to the contrary.

1. God had departed from Saul and would not communicate with him. Verse 15.

2. Samuel was supposedly "brought up." Other expressions "ascending out of the earth," "Cometh up," and "Bring... up." Is this where the righteous dead are, down in the earth? Not according to those who believe in the immortal soul.

3. "Samuel" is described as "an old man covered with a mantle." Is this the way immortal souls appear? And where did the soul get the body? They are supposed to be disembodied. Was there a resurrection? Did God at the beck and call of the witch, raise up Samuel? If not, can Satan raise the dead?

4. The apparition of Samuel told Saul, "Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me." Saul committed suicide on the battlefield the next day. Where did Samuel dwell if the wicked Saul was to go to the same place?

5. The record never says that Saul saw Samuel. He received his information second hand from the witch, and only concluded it was Samuel from her description. The truth is that the devil deceived the dissolute old woman, and she deceived Saul. It was nothing more than a devil-generated seance.

6. The enormity of Saul's sin is revealed in these words: "So Saul died...for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; and inquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him." 1 Chronicles 10:13,14.

Here is an interesting question that we get often in our mail, did Jesus do away with the Ten Commandments by fulfilling them? Surprisingly enough there seem to be thousands of Christians who are completely misinformed on this subject of law and grace. They believe somehow that God's grace annulled His law, and therefore, we don't have to keep the Ten Commandments anymore. By some strange twist of reasoning, they feel that Jesus kept the law for us so that we don't have to do it. Here is what Christ said about it. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill."

It is quite evident from the opening words of this text that Christ was reading the minds of His critics who were accusing Him of doing away with the law. He said, "THINK NOT that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets...but to fulfill." Instead of abolishing it, He was actually doing the opposite. The word "fulfill" means literally "to fill; to make full." The same word is used in Matthew 3:15 where Jesus spoke concerning His baptism, "suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." There is no idea in the word which signifies "to bring to an end" or "to abolish". The law and prophets included not just the Ten Commandments, but all the Old Testament writings. Christ fulfilled those Scriptures, just as He fulfilled all righteousness at His baptism, by obedience to them. Paul used the word in Colossians 1:25, "wherefore I am made a minister...to fulfill the word of God." This does not mean to bring the word of God to an end, but rather to fully carry it out in obedience. In Romans 8:4 the sense is clearly revealed by the same word used in this sentence: "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." Even those who seek to abolish the law must admit that the righteousness of those who walk after the Spirit is not "fulfilled" by being abolished. Yet this is the same word used in Matthew 5:17 to "fulfill" the law.

Finally, Paul gives a classic example of the word "fulfill" in Galatians 6:2. "Bear ye one anothers burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Not one Christian believes that the law of Christ has been abolished. Neither should any Christian feel that the "law and the prophets" have been abolished. Romans 13:8-10 tells how to fulfill the law of the Ten Commandments by obedience to it.

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