Category Archives: Bible Study

Who Were Adam and Eve’s Other Children?

The story of Adam and Eve’s children Cain and Abel doesn’t take up much room in the Bible. The story of their lives takes up one chapter, with a few genealogical deals added in the next one. Despite this, the phrase “Cain and Abel” is known throughout our culture, and we all have a fairly good idea of what it means. Let’s take a closer look at what the Bible actually says about these two men and their lesser-known siblings.

Who Were Cain and Abel?

According to Genesis 4, after being exiled from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain and Abel. Cain was the first son, the Bible doesn’t specify how much later that Abel was born.

As adults, Cain and Abel took separate careers: Abel became a shepherd while Cain became a farmer (Genesis 4:2). At some point, Cain and Abel both gave offerings to God from their produce. Cain gave crops from his harvest, while Abel gave sections of firstborn lambs. God accepted Abel’s offering but did not approve of what Cain brought. Cain was upset and jealous of Abel as a result (Genesis 4:5), and God warned Cain to be careful:

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Genesis 4:6-7

Later (the date is not clear, just “one day”) Cain asked Abel to walk with him in the field, and Cain killed Abel. God took a tactic similar to the one he used in Genesis 3:9 after Cain’s parents had eaten the forbidden fruit: He approached the wrongdoer and asked a question. In this case, he asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” Cain responded, “I don’t know… am I my brother’s guardian?” (Genesis 4:9).

God rebuked Cain for his actions and told him that from this point he would be “a homeless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:12). Cain replied that he could not bear the punishment of forever wandering and that “anyone who finds me will kill me!” God replied that he would punish anyone who killed Cain seven times over, and put a mark on Cain so that anyone who tried to kill Cain would be warned off (Genesis 4:15-16). After this point, Cain had a son named Enoch and founded a city, and had various descendants who developed skills like playing music, forging metal, and nomadic herding (Genesis 4:17-24).

Why Did Cain Kill Abel?

God approved of Abel’s offering but not Cain’s, and as a result, Cain resented his brother. Why precisely God didn’t approve of Cain’s offering is hard to say. It’s worth noting that the Bible says Cain gave “some of his crops,” without describing the quality of the offering (Genesis 4:3). In contrast, the next verse says that Abel gave “the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock.” Abel gave the best, and he took it from the first results of his labors, not as an afterthought or after he was sure he had a surplus.

We don’t get any such details about Cain’s crops, which may mean he didn’t give the best. Cain may simply have not been showing proper respect toward God with his offering. Regardless of what Cain did wrong, the fact that God told Cain he would be accepted if he did what was right (Genesis 4:7) indicates there was generally something wrong with his offering.

Not only was Cain jealous of God favoring Abel, but he also didn’t appreciate the warning that God gave him. He was warned, and yet he continued to behave rebelliously. Even after he killed Abel, his rebellious attitude continued, as seen in his scoffing response, “Am I my brother’s guardian?” (Genesis 4:9).

In essence, Cain’s response was self-centered. The result was that he became a wanderer, a man with no community. He lived for himself and got only himself in return.

Who Was Seth?

Genesis 4:25-26 picks up after the story of Cain’s family and says that Adam and Eve had another son named Seth. After Seth was born, Eve said, “God has granted me another son in place of Abel, whom Cain killed” (Genesis 4:25). Seth later had a son named Enosh (Genesis 4:26), and genealogy in Genesis 5 focuses on Seth’s descendants, ending with Noah who would become famous for building the ark.

At first glance, Genesis 4-5 sounds like it’s saying Adam and Eve didn’t have any children between Abel and Seth. It says that “After the birth of Seth, Adam lived another 800 years and he had other sons and daughters,” (5:4) as if there was a long period where it was just Adam, Eve, and their two sons followed by a big expansion after Seth. However, this misses a couple of things.

First, Cain said after God cursed him that he feared, ‘anyone who finds me will kill me!” If there were no other children of Adam and Eve around at this point, who could Cain be talking about? Some scholars have suggested the answer is that Adam and Eve were not the first and only human beings created, simply the ones Genesis focuses on because they are the ones who lived in the Garden of Eden. However, after Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us,” talking about them as representatives of their entire species. 1 Corinthians 15 continues this method by describing Adam as the first human. It says “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive” (15:22) and that “The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven” (15:47). Therefore, it seems that Adam and Eve were the first human beings.

Second, Genesis 5 talks about Adam’s lineage without mentioning Cain and Abel at all. It starts by saying “this is a written account of the descendants of Adam,” then says, “When Adam was 130 years old, he became the father of a son who was just like him… He named his son Seth” (5:3). This genealogy doesn’t record every single descendant of Adam, only select ones. Therefore, Adam Eve could have had more children between Abel and Seth, and likely did. We just don’t know how many, whether Cain and Abel grew up with many brothers or sisters.

Did Adam and Eve’s Sons Marry Their Sisters?

Assuming that Adam and Eve were the first man and woman, and there no “Pre-Adamic” beings that humans mated with, it would seem that Cain and Seth Eve must have married women descended from Adam and Eve.

As established, we don’t know when Adam and Eve started having daughters (or for that matter whether Abel had a wife and children unmentioned in the narrative). We also know that Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born, so there could have been several generations of people born in between Genesis 4:1 and Genesis 4:17 (the first time that Cain’s wife is mentioned). Therefore, we don’t know whether Cain or Seth married their direct siblings—one of them might have done so and the other married a niece or cousin. Regardless, sheer math would indicate that at least one of Adam’s three sons married a sister.

This idea is disturbing and goes against the laws forbidding incest in Leviticus 18. However, prior to this law being given in Leviticus, there are various instances of men marrying their sisters or other relatives. Abraham’s wife Sarah was his half-sister by a different mother (Genesis 20:11-13). Jacob married two of his female cousins (Genesis 29-30). Moses’ father married his aunt (Exodus 6:20). For whatever reason, the law against incest doesn’t seem to have been in effect (at least not as strictly) before God made the covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Why this shift occurred is hard to say. Since Genesis describes all that was created in the Garden of Eden as good, including Adam and Eve, their genes may have been well-developed to the point that their kids could marry siblings and produce children with no genetic defects. This would fit the shift we see in Genesis from early generations with long lives producing children past their 100s to humans with shorter lives and shorter fertility rates. We go from Adam and Eve, who were still having children when they were over 100 years old (Seth was born when Adam was 130), to Abraham and Sarah who were past child-bearing age when Sarah was 90 and Abraham 100 years old (Genesis 17:17, 18:12). In Genesis 6:3, God decrees that humans will only live to be 120 years old, and other than a few patriarchs this holds true throughout the rest of the Bible.

So, it’s possible that in Cain and Abel’s period, human genetics were so good that all the biological problems that incest creates (mutations, etc.) weren’t a problem. Regardless, God does forbid incest later (and then quite firmly) in the Bible. However we interpret who Adam and Eve’s sons married, we are left with the fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us every single bit of information we want. It gives us the facts we need and leaves us with reminders that whatever strange things people in the Bible did, God knew what he was doing and worked something good from it down the line.

Chris Pratt Attacked Again for his Christian Faith

“Guardians of the Galaxy” star Chris Pratt has been attacked for being Christian with some critics even asking that he be replaced in the popular Marvel movie franchise.

We are all used to Hollywood making fun of and belittling conservative Americans of faith and others who dissent from elites’ left agenda.

Not this time. It doesn’t look like Pratt is going anywhere.

Or at least according to the director of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” James Gunn.

Christianity Daily reported this week:

James Gunn, the director behind Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and DC’s ‘Suicide Squad’ recently spoke out against the criticism that Christian actor Chris Pratt has been receiving because of his faith. The director responded to calls for Pratt’s removal from the ‘Guardians’ films by saying that he would never replace the Christian actor as Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord.

The article continued:

When one Twitter user suggested to ‘just replace’ Pratt, Gunn fiercely defended the actor and father of two, writing, ‘For what? Because of your made-up, utterly-false beliefs about him? For something that someone else told you about him that’s not true? Chris Pratt would never be replaced as Star-Lord but, if he ever was, we would all be going with him.’

Some Marvel comic fans took the opportunity to point out that Star-Lord was in fact depicted as bisexual in a 2020 comic series for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ Others poked fun at Pratt for his Christian beliefs.

But the criticism over Pratt’s Christian faith dates back to 2020, when the actor became unpopular for supporting Zoe Church, which reportedly discriminates against LGBT individuals. Forbes reported that at the time, Ellen Page, now known as the transitioned Elliot Page, called out Pratt for supporting the church, which he claimed ‘opens their doors to absolutely everyone.’

Moreover, people seemed to think that Pratt supported former President Donald Trump because he did not participate in a virtual fundraising event for then presidential candidate Joe Biden. The event was attended by his other ‘Avengers’ co-stars.

These people are being serious. They think you should just cancel someone because they have a different religion or political beliefs from them.

No diversity. No tolerance. There’s nothing “liberal” about these critics.

Thankfully, at least one big time Hollywood director stood up in defense of Chris Pratt.

The article added:

‘People have been attempting to cancel Chris Pratt for years based on nothing. Not over anything he’s actually ever said or did,’ Oliver Jia, who serves as the social media editor for NK News, took to Twitter to argue last week. Jia argued that there was ‘zero evidence’ that suggested Pratt held ‘homophobic or bigoted views.’ The actor also never admitted or denied supporting Trump.

Jia also pointed out how easy it is to ‘cancel’ other people over a rumor or their inaction or choice not to make a stance. He warned, ‘This is a religion for vengeful people who think they’re achieving something by ruining innocent people’s lives.’

Chris Pratt should be admired and applauded – not condemned – for standing up for his Christian faith in the intolerant and toxic cesspool that is modern day Hollywood.

New Cults Using the Book of Revelation

For over 1900 years, the Book of Revelation has fascinated and intrigued both Christians and non-Christians. Due to its prophetic declarations, many approach the reading of Revelations with reverence and even fear. 

And yet, this final book of the Bible continues to allure not only scholars of eschatology and apocalypticism, but also individuals who feel displaced from society, who are experiencing a personal crisis, and those who are keen to follow a prophetic roadmap — albeit encrypted — for the impending apocalypse. 

These individuals and others become primary targets for sects and Doomsday cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, the Church of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church), Unification Church (the “Moonies”), and Seventh Day Adventists, who present themselves as Bible-based Christian churches or organizations. 

However, they in fact follow a Doomsday doctrine that includes integrating other religions, contorting Scripture, and making claims that are spiritually unsound. 

The primary teaching source of these cults is the Book of Revelation, which is used, unbiblically, to brainwash members through thought reform and thereby systematically break down their sense of self. 

Consequently, members are forcibly coerced into engaging in activities that promote the narcissism of cult leaders and aid in fulfilling their sociopathic agenda. 

However, what makes the unbiblical and false teachings of the  Book of Revelation such an effective brainwashing tool for sects and cults?

What Is the Book of Revelation?

The Book of Revelation was written around AD 95 by the Apostle John whilst in exile in a penal colony on the island of Patmos. 

John’s purpose in writing this book was to correct, teach, and encourage the seven persecuted churches in Asia Minor, as well as reveal the visions that the Holy Spirit had given him regarding the current time as well as the future. 

The book’s name is derived from the Greek word apokalypsis, of which its most accepted translation is “revelation.” 

True to its Hellenistic derivation, the Book of Revelation uses the genre of apocalyptic literature to declare End Time prophecies such as beasts ruling the earth (Revelation 13:4), imminent global catastrophes (Revelation 16), man waging Armageddon on God under demonic leadership (Revelation 16:16), and the judgment of mankind before the throne of God (Revelation 20:12). 

These prophetic declarations find their origins in the Old Testament (Daniel 12.11; Matthew 5:17) and are enciphered through fragmented formulations, graphic imagery, and a heavy use of symbolism and numbers.  

Why Is the Book of Revelation Falsely Used in Cults?

Due to its complexity, the Book of Revelation is widely considered to be difficult to understand and is thereby subject to a vast range of interpretations, which can be influenced by personal bias. For this reason, this book is selected by cults that claim to be Christian.

Cults find recruits all too easily amongst the lonely, the unemployed, the transient, and the socially displaced. 

Through diligent applications of mind control and alienation, members are manipulated into abandoning independent thought and self-identity in favor of submitting to the higher purpose of the sect, which is derived from the latter’s interpretation of Revelation. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach members shifting timelines regarding the apocalypse. The members of the Branch Davidian accepted that their leader David Koresh was given sole divine authority to open the seven seals. 

The Shincheonji Church encourages believers that they are the 144,000 “sealed Jews” referred to in Revelation 7:4 that have divine protection from the wrath of the Antichrist. 

Seventh-Day Adventists proclaim that unsaved people will be annihilated, whilst the saved will live on a recreation of the earth for all eternity.

Further consequences of a cult’s teachings of Revelation are that members are brainwashed into offering finances, sexual services, and even their very lives in executing actions that will satisfy the narcissistic whims of cult leaders and fulfill their sociopathic ambitions. 

One such catastrophic example was the Waco siege of 1993, whose leader was David Koresh. 

How Can l Protect Myself from Being Lured into a Cult?

As Christians, we always need to be aware that false prophets are amongst us (Matthew 7:15). The following are some characteristics that can help you discern whether a church you are considering joining is, in fact, part of a sect or Doomsday cult.

1. They assertively prey on the vulnerable. Cult members aggressively seek recruitments who are vulnerable and naïve as to what a cult is and who display a lack of knowledge of biblical principles. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses former recruitment strategies included “proselytizing,” which is doorbell knocking; however, lately, they tend to set up stands at train stations.

The Shincheonji Church boldly approaches people on the streets or infiltrates existing churches in order to poach congregants. Forty percent of their victims are the youth, whilst 60% are people in their 50’s and 60’s.

2. They don’t tell you that they are a cult. Sects hide their cult status from unsuspecting recruits. The Unification Church has front groups such as the “Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles.”

The Mormon Church uses “friendshipping,” which is influencing friends and romantic interests to join them by accrediting their good works and behavior to their church.      

3. Their leaders claim to be divinely chosen. Cult leaders claim to have been selected by God to lead and accurately interpret the Book of Revelation. 

David Koresh of the Branch Davidians declared himself to be the final Messiah and the anointed Prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith of the Latter Day Saints proclaimed to be the  “promised pastor” and  Lee Man-hee of the Shincheonji Church insists that he is God-like and immortal.

4. They offer exclusive Bible studies. Cults pertain to the façade of being a Christian church through their in-depth, exclusive Bible training. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses offer free online Bible studies or penetrate households to teach their own translation of the Bible. The Shincheonji Church has Bible study centers where they teach their own version of the Bible through intense and time-consuming courses.

5They isolate you. Sects use social isolation to cut new members off from family and loved ones. 

The Unification Church “love bomb” recruits with attention and affection whilst at the same time keeping potential members under constant surveillance. 

The Shincheonji Church exerts pressure on new members to cut off ties to their former life through “plotting” — their term for the teaching of lies.

A Divine Warning

It is heartbreaking to know that God’s Truth, which is intended to set us free, is in fact being twisted and corrupted by false prophets to instead lead people into confusion and despair.

We can only pray for a renewal of these leaders’ hearts and leave the rest to God as He outlines in the epilogue of the Book of Revelation.

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll”(Revelation 22:18-19).

The Last Seven Words of Jesus: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

I had not focused on it before, but the biblical commentaries on this passage are appallingly thin and equally pedantic.  Broadly speaking, they divide into two categories: Catholic and Protestant.

The Catholic commentaries reflect on the relationship between the words of Jesus and the creeds that declare that “Jesus descended into hell” or they muse at length about how the language of “Paradise,” which may or may not be a direct reference to heaven and might allow room for a doctrine of Purgatory.  Predictably, Protestant commentaries go on at length about how this passage precludes a doctrine of Purgatory.  They dwell, instead, on how the passage might suggest we all go immediately to heaven when we die.

Neither concern is really the point of Jesus’ words.  If the passage were a painting, most of what is written on the subject would sound like a long, solemn reflection on the nature of the canvas behind the paint and the dating of the frame around the picture.

“Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Leon Wieseltier, a literary editor, and a sometime observant Jew wrote about his father’s death in March of 1996.[i]  Not particularly devoted to the practice of his faith at the time, he felt impelled to follow Jewish tradition and say the Kaddish, or mourner’s prayer, in a synagogue three times a day for eleven months.  Based on his experiences, he wrote a memoir that recorded his experiences, struggles, and reflections.

It is a book that haunts as much as it informs the reader, and Wieseltier records both the loneliness that he experiences and the ways in which the ancient Jewish practice of saying the Kaddish both leads him into a candid admission of his grief and, at the same time, comforts him. Days after he begins saying his prayers, Wieseltier discovers that his mother has her own struggles.  He writes:

Back in Washington, talking with my mother on the phone about our pilgrimage to Elmont.  She says that she visited my father’s grave “with anger, with more and more anger” about what was done to her to family and to her people in Poland.  She confesses that she stayed away from cemeteries for years, and was delinquent in her duty to visit the graves of her cousins in Long Island, because she did not wish to unleash the anger.  “It’s not that they’re not alive, it’s that they didn’t have a proper end.”[ii]

Proper ends are hard to come by.  The words of Jesus to the criminal who appeals to be heard and embraced has nothing to do with the mechanics of the afterlife.  They speak, instead, to the broken, incomplete, ragged shards that almost always accompany death.  And, instead of offering the simple, obvious things that we can imagine, Jesus speaks to the grief of sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, lovers, and friends.

Nor are the words of Jesus appropriately unpacked in the words of the commentaries with endless, prosaic conversations about where we go when we die and how soon we get there.  The words of Jesus are about a fundamental shift in the fabric of the universe, a return to the intentions of the creator, a vindication of God’s claim to be God.  And although Easter is not here yet, it is clear that God’s response to the claims of death will be a resounding, earthshattering “No!”  The end is not the end at all.

How have missed this so often?  The problem, I think, is that we have been so preoccupied with what happens to ourselves, that we have misunderstood the Christian narrative.  For far too long, we have imagined that the Christian story is about us — about how God created us, about how our lives came unraveled, about how we were meant for life and die instead — about how God makes it right again, saves us, and we get to heaven.

There are just enough elements in that story to make it plausible, and the emotional appeal is undeniable.  Who wouldn’t love a storyline that speaks to our greatest needs?  But it is God who is at the center of Scripture’s redemptive story and in saying “NO” to death’s claims, Jesus vindicates the claims of God to be God.  If it were not for this face-off with death, then the end really is the end and God’s claims, never mind the claims that Jesus makes as God, unravel.  Whatever fragile case God might make for bringing creation into being, death erases that creation, and – in the case of humankind – erases the image of God, which defines our existence.

The words, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise”, are, then, words of mastery and control.  They anticipate the vindication of God’s claim to be God, and that vindication is made evident in the One who hangs on the cross and yet holds sway over the world that the Triune God has created.

To be sure, our well-being is secure.  But our healing lies not in what God does for us, but in the fact that God is God.  As the Kaddish acclaims:

Blessed

And praised

And glorified

And raised

And exalted

And honored

And uplifted

And lauded

Be the Name of the Holy One

(He is Blessed!)

Above all blessings

And hymns and praises and consolations

That are uttered in the world

And say all Amen![iii]

+++++++

“Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

And in that moment

Death loses its power,

And we are freed from hopeless sorrow,

Finding ourselves by your side,

Reassured by your presence,

Comforted by your words,

Led by your love.

What the Shroud of Turin Showed Us

n the past, in Christian art and pious legends, thorny plants have symbolized suffering. The most familiar example, is, of course, Christ’s Passion, when he wore a crown of thorns on the Cross.

Thorns carry several meanings — they can also represent moral courage, endurance, victory, protection, salvation, and conquering adversity.

Thorns and their meaning

The Cardoon or Artichoke Thistle (Cynara cardunculus) stems are recorded in Greek and Roman cuisine. They remained a popular food throughout the region until the 19th century. In art, the plant alludes to man’s need to labor for his food after the expulsion from Eden, and as such to labor through his inclination to sin to achieve the food of salvation — Jesus.

An easily recognized thistle is the Scottish thistle (Onopordum acanthium), which is symbolic of protection. It is said that armies invading Scotland were thwarted by this plant’s defensive nature. The Order of the Thistle was founded in 1540 by King James V, who created it for himself and 12 of his knights, “in allusion to the Blessed Savior and his Twelve Apostles.”

In a pious legend of King Charlemagne, it is said that his army was dying of the plague when an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him to shoot an arrow into the air and whatever plant the arrow landed upon, he was to feed his soldiers with. Charlemagne did as the angel instructed; his arrow landed in a patch of milk thistle (Silybum marianum), thereafter renamed Holy Thistle. He had all his men eat the plant, and all were saved and continued the holy fight for Christianity. 

Historically the Benedictine monks grew the Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus) as a cure-all; it was believed to be especially effective in curing smallpox. It is a yellow-flowered thistle that has been used medicinally — for internal and external ailments — for over 2,000 years.

Thorns and flowers on the Shroud of Turin

We have read in the Bible that the torture endured by Our Lord during his Passion began with cruelty at the hands of Pilate’s soldiers. It was those brutes that gave Our Lord his first crown — that of thorns — which became, along with the cross, a symbol of victory over evil. Here is where we come to know the most notorious of all thistles, the Carduus and the Gundelia tournefortii, the thistles found on the Shroud of Turin.

Experts in the natural sciences began examining the shroud toward the end of the 19th century. Botanical experts on the research team found the imprints of plants and grains of pollen that can serve as seasonal and geographic indicators.

Four plants on the shroud are significant because, as researchers Danin and Baruch report, “the assemblage … occurs in only one rather small spot on earth, this being the Judean mountains and the Judean Desert of Israel, in the vicinity of Jerusalem.”

These experts succeeded in identifying 36 species of plants on the shroud. They discovered that almost all of the flower images remaining on the cloth, and the highest concentration of pollens, were where the head of the corpus would have been lying. (Editor’s note: See the author’s The Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, 149-151, for more on this subject.)

The botanists found several factors of particular interest to those studying, even doubting, the authenticity of the shroud. These are some of their findings:

  • All the plants are ones that grow in Israel. Of these, 20 are known to grow in Jerusalem itself and eight others grow in the vicinity in the Judean desert or the Dead Sea area. 
  • Although some of these plants are also found in Europe, 14 of the plants grow only in the Middle East.
  • Twenty-seven of the plants bloom in the springtime at the same time as the Jewish Passover. 
  • Zygophyllum dumosum has both pollen as well as an image on the shroud and grows only in Israel, Jordan and the Sinai region. 
  • Gundelia tournefortii (most frequent of the pollens found by the scientist on the shroud, and indicative of season) was the plant material found where the Crown of Thorns was imprinted around the head on the cloth.

During Lent we look to where our weaknesses are, the “thorn in our side” that calls us to dependence on Our Lord — whose first crown was worn while enduring suffering for the sake of us.

What Are the Prophetic Books in The Bible?

Your pastor says that he is going to be preaching a series on the prophets. Which books are you expecting to be in the series? If you’re like most you are anticipating a bit of Jeremiah or Ezekiel or Isaiah and maybe a few of those guys with weird names and short books. But would you be shocked if he included Joshua or Samuel in his series? Would you expect any New Testament books to be considered prophetic books of the Bible and thus be included in the series?

When we try to answer the question about which books are prophetic, the question is a little more complex than we might have first assumed.

What Qualifies a Biblical Book as Being Prophetic?

In order to answer this question, we must first establish what is meant by the term prophetic. One of the simplest definitions I have heard of prophecy is that it is “Spirit-inspired utterance.” But if this is the case, what do we do with 2 Timothy 3:16?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

Would this not make Scripture at least in some sense prophetic? When most people think of prophecy, though, they think of that which is prophetic—what is predictive and pointing to something future. What, then, do we do with Jesus’ words in Luke 24:27?

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

So, in another sense, all Scripture is pointing to Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of all Scripture. Again, it is starting to sound like all Scripture is prophecy. But notice, also, Jesus’ words in Luke 24. He clearly makes a division between “Moses and the Prophets”. What is happening there? This was shorthand for the way the Scripture was divided between Torah and the Prophets.

I share all of this to say that there is not a cut and dry formula for determining something a prophetic book or not a prophetic book. As noted earlier—all Scripture is God-breathed, and it all points to Jesus. In that sense everything is prophetic and these constructs are somewhat arbitrary. But there is a different genre that is often labeled prophetic. There is a difference between the style of a book like Jeremiah and a book like Job or Ezra or Acts.

It might be helpful, then, to consider which books are considered prophetic. But that too isn’t quite as cut and dry as one might assume.

Which Books Are Prophetic Books in the Bible?

For most Christian Bibles the Old Testament is ordered along four major divisions: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Poetic and Wisdom Literature, and the Prophets. In this division, the prophets would be divided along the lines of the major prophets and the minor prophets. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. And Jeremiah’s work in Lamentations is also put into this category. The Minor prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The Hebrew Scriptures, however, are divided differently. The TaNaK is the acronym used for the three major sections of the Hebrew Bible: Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim. Nevi’im means prophets but you might be a little shocked at what appears under this category. The Nevi’im is divided into three categories: the Former Prophets, the Latter Prophets, and the Minor Prophets. The ones in the category of Former Prophets are the ones that will be the most surprising. These are Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings). And there will also be one prophet missing in this section of the Hebrew Bible; namely, Daniel. Daniel appears in the Ketuvim (Writings) section as does Lamentations.

So, is Daniel a prophetic book? If we are solely going by these arbitrary divisions then in the Hebrew Bible it would not be considered prophetic. In fact, it is debated whether or not Daniel is even to be considered a prophet. The Talmud explicitly states that he is not a prophet. Yet the book of Daniel uses apocalyptic language and tells of the future. It reads similar to other prophets. So, is it prophetic?

This is where I think it is best to acknowledge that these classifications are arbitrary. Even with how Jesus referred to all of Scripture, he left off the Writings. It’s not because he wasn’t making reference to them pointing to Him. But rather that was just shorthand for saying “all of Scripture.” Again, it’s arbitrary.

It’s better, in my opinion, to allow each section of Scripture to stand on its own and consider the genre of each section rather than attempt to force entire books into a specific genre. In other words, there are times when the book of Jeremiah is a prophetic genre of literature. There are other times when it is narrative. We use different interpretive tools for interpreting and applying a narrative than we do in interpreting and applying a piece of prophetic or apocalyptic literature.

What tools should we use to study a piece of prophetic literature?

How Should We Study These Prophetic Books of the Bible?

If you are considering studying an entire book of the Bible that falls under prophetic literature the first step is to consider it as a whole and place it within its context. These books tend to be occasional in nature—meaning there is some historical situation that motivated them. Therefore, it is important in as much as we can, to consider the background material. Was this book written to the Northern Kingdom during the Assyrian invasion? Was it written before the Babylonian exile? Was it written to the people who had returned from exile? It’s important to read all of the Bible as a unified story which is pointing to Jesus. But the first step in doing this is letting the text speak in its original context.

One of the hallmarks of prophetic literature is that it is typically highly figurative. It’s a good idea to expect this type of language. Robert Plummer points out the importance of reading the literature as the author intended:

The prophet’s use of poetic meter is a further indication that one should be expecting figurative, poetic expressions and symbolism. If the author intended his language to be understood literally, we want to understand it literally. If he intended his words to be understood figuratively, likewise, we want to understand them that way. As we study the text, we are seeking the conscious intention of the divinely inspired author. Most modern Americans are prone to read all language literally. Undoubtedly, the Hebrew language of the Scriptures is much more likely to contain hyperbole and figurative language than the type of literature most modern American read regularly (e.g. newspapers, magazines).

You’ve perhaps heard it said that it’s wise to read with your Bible in one hand and your newspaper in the other. This type of statement is usually made when considering prophetic books of the Bible. I actually think such a statement is misinformed. For one, the newspaper is a different genre than prophetic literature. And it is always a temptation to read our current situation into the Bible rather than to read the Bible into our present turmoil.

It’s also important when considering the predictive prophecy that we distinguish between that which has already been fulfilled in Christ and that which awaits fulfillment. Some of the literature is conditional and very confined to its time. Consider Jonah’s message that in forty days Nineveh will be destroyed. That didn’t happen because it was conditional. It would be ill-informed to supply your enemy’s name into the place of Nineveh and assume that God gave you “a word” that your enemy would be overthrown in forty days. But it would be solid exegesis to establish from this text that when we repent God forgives.

Conclusion

The key point of the prophets is “thus says the Lord.” It is meant to show us that when God speaks it is truth. He means what he says, and he does what he says he is going to do. The prophets ultimately point us to Christ. It is in Christ that all the promises of God find their “yes”. If your interpretation of a prophecy has more to do with your own life situation than it does with the finished work of Jesus Christ, then it’s probably established on faulty grounds. Yes, the Scriptures speak to us and they exhort and encourage us. But they are not fundamentally about us or our historical situations. The prophets weren’t given to give people a crystal ball into the future so they could make plans and save their investments. The primary prophetic call was to repent and to trust in God. We see that ultimately fulfilled in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

The true meaning behind the 8 Days of Easter?

Holy Week spans from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Do you know what happened on the days leading up to the crucifixion and after? Russ Ramsey, pastor and author, has written a helpful article for The Gospel Coalition titled “Easter Week in Real Time.”

When we celebrate Christmas there is a merrier tone, but when we celebrate Easter (though we should be glad in our hearts) there should be a more serious tone. We need to understand the cost of our happiness and the great sacrifice that made it possible.

1. Palm Sunday – A Triumphal Entry and Beginning of The Holy Week

The events of Palm Sunday are found in: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:9-19.

Many churches celebrate Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Easter; maybe your church had children waving palm branches to help them connect to the story. But while this is a triumphal entry, it is also Jesus’ first step toward His death.

Matthew 21:4 tells us:

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”  *The prophecy is cited from Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11.

Ramsey writes,

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem perched on a colt, it was the first time since raising Lazarus from the dead that he’d shown his face in the city.”

Jesus had become somewhat of a celebrity among people who had heard of the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead, and they wanted to see Him and treat Him like a king. But Jesus wasn’t arriving to be their king on account of Lazarus; the story of Lazarus would have had the religious leaders in even more of an uproar and determined to put an end to His life, which He knew . . . Jesus’ glory would be greater than that of a local king.

Day 2: The Monday before Easter – Turning the Tables

Ramsey describes Jerusalem as a beehive, and the triumphal entry was like hitting that angry hive with a stick. If some of the people weren’t angry enough at Jesus’ entry to the city, He would now declare to them their failure to live up to God’s covenant with them. But Jesus was already a marked man as Ramsey remarks.

This is the Monday when Jesus entered the temples and drove out all those who bought and sold things there. Matthew tells us that even upon seeing the wondrous things Jesus did and hearing the children cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” the chief priests and scribes were indignant. Their hearts and minds were made up about this man whom they considered the biggest nuisance to ever enter Jerusalem.

But Jesus responds to His disciples’ awe with Scripture from Psalm 8:2,


“…’have you never read,’ ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” –Matthew 21:16

Ramsey summarizes, “Much of what the Gospels tell us about Monday centers on the theme of Jesus’s authority—both over the created world and his right to judge it.” Jesus is fulfilling all of the Scriptures; He is the one with the authority in this situation not the religious leaders.

Day 3: The Tuesday before Easter – Teaching in the Temple

The events of the Tuesday before Easter are recorded in Matthew 21:23-26:5, Mark 11:27-14:2, Luke 20:1-22:2, and John 12:37-50.

Jesus spent Tuesday teaching God’s Word in the temple to all who would listen; “But Tuesday afternoon is the last time Jesus publicly teaches in the temple as a free man. His words on this day are his closing argument, his manifesto,” writes Ramsey.

In Matthew 26:1-5 Jesus tells His disciples:

You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

Ramsey explains, “If Monday’s arrival in the temple was an all-inclusive, living parable of cleansing God’s house, Tuesday’s entrance is a direct, verbal confrontation with the appointed leadership.” And as we read in the gospels, the appointed leadership did not take it well.

Day 4: The Wednesday before Easter – A Day of Rest

The events of the Wednesday before Easter are recorded in Matthew 26:6-16, Mark 14:3-11, and Luke 22:3-6.

On Wednesday Jesus rested; He allowed a woman to pour expensive ointment on His head. When His disciples exclaimed at the price of the oil and what they considered a waste, Jesus responded,

For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” –Mark 14:7-8

The Gospel Transformation Bible notes, “The woman’s extravagant generosity in pouring out her ‘very expensive ointment’ on Jesus stands in stark contrast to the greed that drove Judas to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The condition of one’s heart will reveal itself in one’s actions.”

For thirty pieces of silver, Judas gave over a life. In Zechariah 11:12 we also see the price of thirty pieces of silver. The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible reminds us that this was the price of a slave as cited in Ex. 21:32; D.A. Carson, the general editor, continues, “This payoff is an insult that utterly rejects God as shepherd . . . Matthew sees this same scenario of rejecting God played out again when Judas betrays Jesus, the Good Shepherd for 30 pieces of silver.”

Day 5: Maundy Thursday – From the Latin “Mandatum” Translated “Commandment”

The events of Maundy Thursday are recorded in Matthew 26:17-75, Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-71, and John 13:1-18:27

Maundy Thursday covers the washing of the disciples’ feet, the announcement of Jesus’ coming betrayal, the Passover meal, prayer at the Mount of Olives, and ultimately His arrest in Gethsemane. As Ramsey comments, Jesus isn’t just there to pray at the Mount of Olives . . . He is there to wait. He knows what’s coming, He has been waiting for it, and He is ready to fulfill His promise.

John 13:19-20:

But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” *The Scripture is Psalm 41:9

Later this night the Sanhedrine met to decide Jesus’ fate, and they called for His death.

Day 6: Good Friday – The Son of Man Has Come to Die

The events of Good Friday are recorded in Matthew 27:1-61, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 23:1-56, and John 18:28-19:41

Today is the day Jesus was delivered over to Pilate the governor of Judaea. When Pilate asked Jesus if He was King of the Jews, He responded that Pilate had said so. Still, Pilate believed Jesus had done nothing deserving of death and tried to free Him by asking the people which prisoner they wanted released (as was custom)—but the people shouted Barabbas.

Even at the urging of his wife not to harm this man because of a dream she had, Pilate continued on in the death proceedings. Jesus was beaten, mocked, and crucified—but there was something different about His death.

Mark 15:37-39 states,

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!‘”

Ramsey expresses,

Never before or since has more been lost and gained at the same time. The world gained the atoning sacrifice of Christ. But for those present, either the significance of the moment is lost on them or their hearts break as the One they thought to be the Savior of the world dies at the hands of Rome. They can’t stop it, and they don’t realize it’s for them. They hoped in him, and though he’d told them he would suffer many things and rise three days later (Mark 8:31), how could they have possibly known this was what he meant?

Day 7: Holy Saturday – Jesus’ Body Lay Dead in the Tomb

Matthew 27:62-66 reveals:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise. ‘Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”

Less is written about this day in Scripture than any other day in Holy Week, but this is the only full day where Jesus’ body lay buried. As Ramsey writes, the chief priests may have scoffed at Jesus’ prophecy but they did not forget it. The religious leaders were paranoid that something might happen still, which is why they asked for the extra security.

Day 8: Resurrection Sunday – He Is Risen Indeed!

The events of Resurrection Sunday are recorded in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-53, and John 20:1-21:25

Some of the women disciples went to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body with burial spices and oils, but they found that the stone had been rolled away and the body was missing. Luke 24:4-8 tells us,

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.” 

He was not there. He is risen! But Jesus wasn’t a martyr for a cause as Ramsey explains, “No one took his life from him. He laid it down. For whom? For his flock, his people.” He continues,

Easter says of Jesus, ‘He meant it! He meant to lay down his life for you. And as surely as he has taken it up again, he knows you and loves you.’”

To read Russ Ramsey’s article in its entirety please visit TheGospelCoalition.org

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was not an accident, it was full of purpose for God’s glory and our salvation.

Reflect on these eight days of Easter during this year’s Holy Week, and read the Scriptures prayerfully with purpose. Share this wonderful truth with your family and friends as you prepare for Easter. 

Will there be megachurches in the metaverse?

Months before the coronavirus pandemic hit, many churches struggled to acknowledge that an increasing share of their audience had been migrating to online teachers and worship experiences.

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, data from the Nashville-based LifeWay Research suggests that many churches were not prepared to take their services online.

At the time, just 22% of pastors livestreamed their entire service, and about 10% only livestreamed their sermon. Some 41% of pastors admitted they didn’t post any portion of their church service online, while about 52% said they posted the sermon online after the church service.

Less than two years after enduring the ravages of the pandemic, however, a lot has changed. 

Data collected in a survey of nearly 2,000 decision-making church leaders for The 2021 State of Church Technology Report from Pushpay shows that most American churches now embrace technology as an important tool in achieving their mission and agree that the digital church is here to stay. The report finds that churches, more than ever, “are enthusiastic to adopt technology for the long haul” as the pandemic “erased any doubts regarding the viability of a digital Church.”

Earlier this year, Pastor Touré Roberts of the Potter’s House of Denverannounced his congregation would sell their $12.2 million, 137,000-square-foot church in Arapahoe County, Colorado, and go completely virtual after COVID-19 wreaked havoc on their in-person attendance and donations.

Many other churches sold or shuttered their church buildings for good. Others have been trying more creative ways to survive outside of migrating online completely or merging with another church, as the pastors of Hope Church in High Point and Renaissance Church in Jamestown, North Carolina, did earlier this year.

Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church in Ontario, Canada.

“When we got in there, I was like, wow, this is amazing. I just was blown away. I’ve never seen anything like it. You think you’ve seen everything. And I was only in there a couple of hours. It was a Friday; we were shifting our lives into this physical church plane, but I thought, man, what if we did a little experiment and had church in this metaverse? And so three days later, I had my first church service in VR, and I was so pumped because five people came to launch day,” Soto recalled.

And more than five years later, the VR Church continues to grow.

“When thinking about megachurch to MetaChurch, I just look back at our five years of our ministry in Virtual Reality Church and the experiences that we’ve had have been so compelling. And the spirit has just been alive in our community, and we’ve experienced God in our environment, within our relationships,” Soto said. “And so just experiencing that and just saying, ‘Wow, this is such a powerful tool.’ God’s here. He’s with us. He’s not just in the physical. He’s sharing His love with people all across the metaverse.”

To participate in the VR Church experience, Soto and his team recommend that worshipers get a quality virtual reality headset, like the Oculus Quest 2, which retails for $299.

Facebook declined to share sales numbers for the headset, which it launched in October 2020, but said it was a popular holiday gift last Christmas and “remains a product in high demand.” Lewis said the Oculus app reached No. 1 in the App Store for the first time on Christmas Day in the U.S. in 2021.

Even though the VR Church exists in many metaverses like VRChat, RecRoom, AltspaceVR and Facebook Horizons, first-time visitors are asked to join through AltspaceVR, a social virtual reality platform.

“In my ministry, in our church, I am an avatar a hundred percent. And so it’s part of just coming in with a 3D representation of my physical self,” Soto said. “And when I put on the virtual reality headset, it mirrors my movement. So if I turn my head to the left, my avatar, his head would turn. If I raised my hands, it would do the same things. And so when I preach every Sunday, people are seeing that avatar, and I’m interacting with people all over the world.

“Sometimes, I do interviews in my avatar. … I think church leaders are trying to wrap their brain around that. But I think our church represents what church is going to look like in 2030, where it’s going to be very normal for you as a senior leader, senior pastor, teacher to preach in your avatar. I think that’s where we’re heading.”

Life.Church

The Craig Groeschel-led Life.Church, which spans some 40 campuses and owns the popular YouVersion Bible app, has been a leading voice for innovation among churches in America for a while now.

The church has hosted a booming online community for more than 10 years and tells CP that as far back as 2007, they were already experimenting with church in the metaverse. It was no surprise last December when the church added a campus in the metaverse.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve held services in the metaverse. In 2007, we held services in Second Life, which was a 3D virtual environment similar to what you see today in the metaverse, except you didn’t have the option to use VR to navigate it,” Life.Church pastor and innovative leader Bobby Gruenewald told CP in a statement. “As people spend more time in digital spaces and as the technology improves, it’s important to us that the Church has a presence so we can bring hope and encouragement.”

Gruenewald said that compared to building a physical campus, the cost to set up a campus in the metaverse using AltspaceVR was nominal.

“Initially, we didn’t create our own building there. We used a theater-style venue that was available as a template,” he said. “It was fairly quick and easy to set up and worked well for our first couple weeks. Recently, we modeled a venue to look like one of our physical locations in dimension, shape, color and experience. It took our team a couple weeks to build, but it was a nominal budget, certainly in comparison to one of our physical locations.

“We also began this effort with just a couple of team members giving their time to host services in the metaverse. Now, we are in the process of building a volunteer team to help support it.”

Criticism

But not every Christian leader is excited about the church’s march toward evolving online technology.

G. Craige Lewis, EX Ministries founder and leader of Adamant Believers Council in North Richland Hills, Texas, believes the devil is “forcing everyone into the bottleneck of the internet, which may seem like a good idea for some now.” But he contends that “it’s a setup.” 

“Even the metaverse … it’s a setup,” Lewis told CP. “Once you’re in that space, he (the devil) holds the power of the club. And they can pull the plug. That’s already happened in other countries, other continents, especially China, where you can’t even mention Jesus Christ online,” he added.

“All they have to do is create a synthetic robot or whatever online to go through, and clean it up of every mention of Jesus Christ,” Lewis said. “The church is done if their only presence is online.”

Gruenewald, however, maintains that the presence of churches in the metaverse is valid.

“When someone doubts the validity of church in the metaverse, our response is similar to what we’ve said for years about church online. There are unique benefits to church in digital spaces. It’s a way to reach people who might never set foot in a physical church,” he said.

“Maybe they have health limitations, so they can’t leave their home, or they live in a part of the world that makes it difficult to meet in person,” he continued. “Others may be too intimidated to walk into a church building, but they’re comfortable exploring church in an online environment.

“We recently talked with a dad whose son has social anxiety. He wouldn’t walk into a physical church, but he felt comfortable coming to church in the metaverse. That’s why we’re passionate about leveraging technology to share the Gospel. We know that to reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to do things no one is doing.”

Gruenewald noted that, in some ways, it’s easier to connect with people online than in the physical church setting.

“We’ve… found that people are often willing to be vulnerable more quickly when they’re online than when they are face-to-face with someone,” Gruenewald said. “People hide behind facades in both online and physical spaces. In person, people tend to put up emotional facades. They’re afraid of what might happen if they let someone in, so they build walls. 

“Whereas the physical façade of an avatar gives people a sense of anonymity that helps them feel more comfortable letting their guard down. They’ll talk about their struggles with depression, difficulties in their marriage, and other intimate details of their life that people don’t usually talk about as quickly or easily in a physical setting.”

The Life.Church leader said he sees the relationship between church in the metaverse and physical services as complementary and doesn’t believe one will replace the other.

“At Life.Church, we will continue to take a hybrid approach,” he said. “We’re all-in on physical church and all-in on digital church. They’re both effective in different ways, and they’re both important. One doesn’t replace the need for the other. As new technologies have emerged throughout history, there have always [been] bold predictions about how things will change.”

“When the telephone was invented, there were those who worried no one would meet together or leave their house again. Those arguments have been around for decades, but they don’t hold up. If the isolation of the last couple of years has taught us anything, we know we have an inherent human desire to be together,” Gruenewald added. “At the same time, digital tools are now woven throughout people’s lives, and we don’t want the Church to miss out on digital opportunities.”

What Is the Significance of Jesus’ Age When He Died?

Jesus’ earthly life was relatively short-lived, but His influence is long-lasting. For Him, it took only three and half years of earthly ministry to bring that eternal legacy to His followers, imparting the whole world with the good news of salvation to all mankind.

The Bible does not specifically mention Jesus’ age when He died — what we know is that Jesus began His ministry when He was about 30 years old (Luke 3:23).

Most scholars believe that the length of Jesus’ public ministry was approximately three and a half years, according to the estimated year that John the Baptist began his ministry (in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, as revealed in Luke 3:1) and the number of the Jewish festivals (i.e., Passover feasts) that Jesus attended.

It is believed that Jesus’ ministry, from His baptism to His ascension, took place between AD 29–33. In this case, it can be inferred that Jesus died when He was between 33 and 34 years old.

However, some also believe that Jesus was somewhere between 33 and 39 years old when He died (Ibid.), depending on the exact date of His birth and the year He commenced His public ministry.

Either way, it is safe to conclude that Jesus died before he was 40 years old, which may be considered the most productive or prime working age for a human.

Recorded Biblical Ages

According to the Bible (Genesis 5), Methuselah was the longest-living man (969 years old), followed by Jared (962), Noah (950), Adam (930), Seth (912), Kenan (910), Enos (905), Mahalalel (895), Lamech (777), and Enoch (365) — all of these men were alive before the Flood.

Moses revealed in his prayer: “The days of our lives are 70 years; and if by reason of strength they are 80 years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

However, God granted him a longer life than what he prayed for as he died at the age of 120 (Deuteronomy 34:7).

Meanwhile, David was 30 years old when he became king, and he died at the age of 70 after reigning for 40 years (2 Samuel 5:4).

It is fair to say that, in comparison to these men, Jesus’ lifespan on earth was relatively short. However, this points to a more profound truth because age is not just a number.

The Brevity of Life

We need to embrace this reality: longevity is not promised — some are blessed with it, some aren’t. However, in the light of eternity, all earthly lives are short-lived.

Scripture reveals this very clearly:

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog — it’s here a little while, then it’s gone (James 4:14, NLT).

Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Psalm 39:5, ESV).

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:6-8, ESV).

Is the meaning of life found in how long we live? It is not, I believe. If it were so, many would have lived in vain.

The Meaning of Life Found in Jesus

First and foremost, the meaning of life is ultimately found in the Author of Life Himself. The Bible reveals this mystery: Jesus Christ is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27) and the Creator of all things (John 1:1-4Colossians 1:15-17Hebrews 1:1-2).

Christians, we worship a sovereign God, who gives and takes away freely according to His will. Jesus reveals His deity when He says,

“No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18, NLT).

Jesus promises that everyone who believes in Him “shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). And He demonstrates His power to fulfill His promise through His resurrection.

Death could not hold Him. Christ’s resurrection is the ultimate hope for all mankind. All who believe in Him shall have no fear in death.

Moreover, all who believe in Jesus not only have eternal life, but also abundant life (John 10:10).

Why Is Jesus’ Age When He Died Significant?

Age is not just a number, but it represents the authority and sovereignty of the Life-Giver. Age should not only be a number that represents how long we have lived but more significantly, how well we have lived according to the purpose of our Creator.

Jesus’ earthly life was relatively short-lived, but His influence is long-lasting. For Him, it took only three and half years of earthly ministry to bring that eternal legacy to His followers, imparting the whole world with the good news of God’s love and salvation to all mankind.

The Son of God completely fulfills the purpose God the Father has given Him — to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), not to condemn, but to save the world (John 3:17).

“His life provides a perfect example for us today to live as those focused on God’s priorities and honoring the Lord with our lives.” The 30 plus years of Christ’s earthly life represent the best offering a man could present to God.

We could also learn from Moses, who fulfilled God’s purpose to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and record God’s law. It was told that Moses still had strength and vitality when he died (Deuteronomy 34:7). Moses died because God had completed what He had planned for him.

This is also true for David: “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed” (Acts 13:36).

Why Does This Matter?

As we realize the brevity of life, may we also remember in our prayers, asking the Lord: “so teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

We need to live by the Spirit’s power as instructed by God through Paul in his letter:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:15-20, NLT).

May our days, whether long or short, be filled with the joy of knowing God and the pleasure of living a life that brings delight, honor, and glory to Him.

How Jesus’ followers Practiced Christianity

The apostles were 12 of the disciples of Jesus who went on to spread his message and found the early Christian church. After the crucifixion of Jesus in the 1st century, they split up and began to proselytize both the message of Jesus and the concept that he was the son of God. In so doing they expanded the following of this offshoot of Judaism and set out the early tenets of what Christianity would become. 

The apostles typically refers to those who were among the original followers of Jesus, although the term apostle, which means “one sent on a mission,” according to Merriam-Webster, is sometimes applied to later figures such as St. Paul who also had a big impact as a missionary. Their efforts helped to forge the religious movement that has shaped history and is today followed by around 2.6 billion people today. 

The Gospels of the New Testament and the Acts of the Apostles describe a core of twelve followers of Jesus that were closest to him. These are the men most commonly called apostles, though the term is occasionally applied to others in the Bible.  

The Gospels give differing lists of the twelve apostles. All four agree that Simon, Peter, Andrew, James son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Thomas, and Judas Iscariot were among the disciples. The Gospel of John differs from the other three gospels however by either not mentioning several of the apostles or using different names. Most Christian sects have reconciled the differences between the lists by saying different names were used for the same person. 

In the Gospel of Matthew it says that after a night of prayer “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” These were activities that would require the physical presence of the apostles. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus sends the apostles out in pairs, telling them to “take nothing for the journey except a mere walking stick — no bread, no [traveler’s] bag, no money in their belts — but to wear sandals; and [He told them] not to wear two tunics.” The apostles were to lead a peripatetic existence both while with Jesus and after his death.

They were set on their various paths by Jesus himself, according to W. Brian Shelton, professor of theology and author of “Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies” (Baker Academic, 2019) who spoke to Live Science. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commands the apostles to “make disciples of all nations.” “The journeys of the apostles after the Book of Acts are significant because they represent the impetus of the apostles and a global expansion of the church,” said Shelton

Though the death of the charismatic leader usually leads to the decline of a religious movement the apostles believed they had been given proof that he really was the son of God. “These disciples of Jesus had walked with the Messiah, witnessed his miracles and resurrection, gained inspiration from his teaching, and found transformation in their own lives,” said Shelton. 

They were given further proof when, during Pentecost, tongues of fire are said to have descended on them and they were given the power to speak all the languages. This would have proven useful in their later travels, though we are told some at the time were unimpressed with their new linguistic ability. According to Acts 2 NIV, they scoffed at the disciples and said “They have had too much wine.”

While it should be approached with some skepticism historically, the Book of Acts is a fascinating document that reveals much about the lives of the early Christians. We are told that they met together for prayer, broke bread together, and lived together. Those who followed the apostles are said to have sold their property and laid their money at the feet of their leaders so that all things could be shared among them. However, the early Christians and the apostles would not be able to stay in Jerusalem forever.

Jesus had been put to death for causing trouble for both the Jewish and Roman authorities.  A group of people hoping to further his message was unlikely to be looked on favorably. We are told of several apostles being arrested for their activities spreading the message of Jesus. The harassment of the early Christians did not stop at arrest.

The first of the apostles to die, other than Judas, was Stephen. Dragged before the Sanhedrin, the supreme council and tribunal of the Jewish people, he was sentenced to death and stoned. One of those watching this execution was Saul, a man who would later become St. Paul after his conversion on the road to Damascus. The Book of Acts describes how a great persecution then erupted.

The Book of Acts describes how king Herod had Peter arrested and put in jail. “Herod lived as a faithful Jew, so he would naturally have been concerned to stop the growth of any heretical sect,” wrote Sean McDowell, author of “The Fate of the Apostles” (Routledge, 2018). Only the timely intervention of an angel freed him. Peter, according to the Book of Acts, “departed and went to another place,” avoiding the martyrdom that was looking like a common end for the apostles. 

While the followers of Jesus who left Jerusalem spread his message, the apostles who remained there had to decide exactly what that word was. Some felt that converts to Christianity first had to become Jewish. Paul seems to have not required this. The first controversy of the church that was settled by a council involved several of the apostles meeting in Jerusalem to decide if converted followers of Jesus had to be circumcised. 

This matter was important because the apostles had begun to win converts in non-Jewish areas. The settling of the matter also reveals much about the structure of the early Church. The apostles voice their opinions in turn and a letter is sent to the Christians in Antioch who had first raised the matter. Letters and council decisions would long play a role in administering the church.

“The first council of apostles in Jerusalem have authoritarian pronouncements concerning the admittance of the Gentile converts into the Christian movement. Yet this did not seem to have the ecclesiastical authority then that we attach to it now,” wrote William Steuart McBirnie, author of “The Search for the Twelve Apostles” (Tyndale Momentum, 2008). 

Last to speak in this first council was James the Just, also known as the brother of Jesus. According to the historian Eusebius James was the first bishop to be appointed over the church in Jerusalem. That he is said to have remained in this position for thirty years shows how important the apostles’ direct connection to Jesus was to their authority.

The Book of Acts was probably written after 90 A.D. and by the same author as the Gospel of Luke. The relatively early date of authorship makes it a valuable source as it is entirely possible that the author knew some of the apostles, or knew people who had known them. Other texts are more problematic as they were sometimes written centuries later. 

“The historical accounts of the apostles after the New Testament are primarily contained in a genre of literature known as the Apostolic Acts. These works are marked by fantastical stories, speeches and theological teaching contrary to the New Testament, and a worldview known as gnosticism,” said Shelton. There are other sources that can be used in piecing together their lives. “Their historical accounts are also contained in sermons, commentary writings, and histories by church fathers, often without historical substantiation and sometimes with minor elements of contradiction to other sources,” added Shelton.

Some of the later Apostolic Acts contain extraordinary tales that may not be literally true but would have helped to spread the faith of Christianity by entertaining and educating at the same time. Shelton told Live Science about one tale “that often gives an audience a good laugh is the episode of Paul encountering a lion in the wilderness of Palestine in The Acts of Paul. The lion talks, inquires about the faith, becomes a disciple, and seems to have even been baptized by Paul. When the apostle is later thrown to the lions at Ephesus, a reunion takes place that day rather than a martyrdom.” 

Peter, always listed first among the apostles, seems to have been the first to found a church outside of Jerusalem. Tradition has it that he was the first Patriarch of the church in Antioch, today located in southern Turkey. He may also have created a Christian community at Corinth. 

Yet it is Rome that is most associated with St. Peter. The Pope claims direct apostolic succession from Peter as the Bishop of Rome. The writings of Paul do not mention Peter in Rome even when discussing the church there, nor does the Book of Acts. Tradition however has long placed him there and many sites in the city are claimed to be linked to him.

The Apostle John was recorded as remaining mostly in Judaea and aiding in the conversion of people to Christianity. Later traditions give him adventures of his own. Tertullian, writing in the late 2nd century, says that John was persecuted and plunged into boiling oil. Luckily the Apostle emerged unscathed and was then exiled to the isle of Patmos off the Turkish coast. Tradition has John living a long life – perhaps until as late as 98 A.D.

While it was inside the Roman Empire that the Christian message found its first converts tales have long been told of the apostles traveling much further afield. One text in Acts describes how Matthew traveled to Ethiopia to spread the word of Jesus. Matthew eventually converted the royal family of Ethiopia. Though the sources for this mission are much later there is indeed an ancient Christian community that exists in Ethiopia, which can be traced back to at least the reign of Aksumite emperor Ezana in the 4th century, according to the Met Museum.

Other apocryphal gospels however place Matthew as performing his ministry elsewhere. “The Acts of Matthew accounts how two magicians conjured a dragon to charge the apostle, which he rebukes and turns against the magicians,” said Shelton. Other, less fabulous, sources do however say that Matthew met his death in Parthia. 

The Apostle Thomas is supposed to have journeyed furthest in his preaching. The Acts of Thomas, written in the 3rd century tells of how he was told by Jesus to go to India. When Thomas, not for the first time, expresses doubts “Jesus forces his hand by selling him to the merchant Abban,” who was heading to India. In India the Apostle undergoes various adventures before serving a local king called Gondophares.

“The Thomas journey has strong historical support. Throughout church history, new missionaries to India often landed to discover an established church there which linked itself to the ministry of Thomas in the first century. That pride extends even to today, where Indian Christians carry the name, ‘Thomas Christians’. A strong oral tradition, legends, hymns, poetry, and histories still circulated today perpetuate the tradition that Thomas came to India. Both the cities of Mylapore and Andrapolis have sites that lay claim to his martyrdom there” Shelton told us.

There is also a tradition that the Apostle Bartholomew visited India but most scholars reject this view. There is however a strong link between Bartholomew and Armenia. There he is said to have converted the local king to Christianity. It was also there that he met a particularly gruesome death – a fate that awaited many of the apostles. 

Images of Bartholomew can be found in churches across the world, though at first people can find them hard to interpret. Bartholomew is often shown carrying something that looks like a melting wax figurine. Closer examination reveals that he is actually holding his own flayed skin. Tradition has it that he was skinned alive and beheaded for his conversion of king Polymius.

Bartholomew’s fate was not so unusual if tradition is to be believed. Of the twelve apostles, including Matthias who replaced Judas, eleven are said to have died for their faith. 

St. Peter was supposedly crucified upside down in Rome after declaring he was unfit to die in the same way as Jesus. Simon the Zealot is said by some texts to have been sawed in half in Persia. A 3rd century text says Andrew was scourged and crucified, surviving on the cross for three days. Hardly any of the records of the deaths of the apostles would pass historical scrutiny judging by modern standards of scholarship but the stories associated with the ends of their lives were massively influential for centuries in Christianity.

It is perhaps fitting for people who preached about life after death that many of the apostles enjoyed colorful afterlives. The bodies of the apostles became important relics and sites of pilgrimage. 

In one legend Regulus, bishop of Patras in Greece, was visited by an angel in 345 A.D. and told to move the bones of St. Andrew as far as he could from their resting place. He packed them up and traveled with them all the way to Scotland, to the city now known as St. Andrews. 

The bones of St. James that became the basis of the great pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela were discovered by a holy hermit called Pelagius in 814 A.D. Strange lights in the sky led him to the tomb of the Apostle. Quite how the Apostle came to be buried in Spain was not recorded. 

It is likely that we will never know whether the relics that are claimed to be those of apostles are authentic. But in many ways it does not matter as the story of how they came to be revered and the centuries of devotion that have been paid to them is of interest in itself.