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Paganism, Idolatry, Mythology and the Occult

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Question #1:

Hello Bob,

I am dealing with the doctrine of sin and have a question. In your study of this subject you indicate that God removed Himself to the third heaven after the fall of man (I understand why). So my question is the following: Did He also remove Himself from the earth at the time of the Satanic rebellion and then, after the Genesis gap, return to the "new" earth when he formed man?

Another unrelated question is this: Many cultures in the east and amongst certain tribes in central America, recount in their folklore, stories of a great flood. Is it possible that the Genesis flood only affected part of the earth as we know it? My opinion is that it can't be, because God saved only Noah and his family because they were righteous but what is your opinion? I have added you to my daily prayer list , that the ministry you provide will expand and be a blessing to many. It certainly has for me.

Regards,

Response #1:

Scripture is very clear about the fact that no one in this world has seen God the Father, and that He will not return to the earth until it is "new"; that is, not until the destruction and re-creation of the universe at the end of human history (please see the link: "The Advent of the Father").

As to the flood, the biblical account is quite clear about the fact that it was universal. For example:

They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits.
Genesis 7:19-20 NIV

Since the miraculous release of waters was enough to "cover the highest mountains to a depth of twenty feet", this flood could not help but be universal in nature (as well as supernatural inasmuch as the water presently existing in all of the worlds seas is incapable of doing that; see the link: in CT 2B: "The waters above"). That is what the Bible says, although I am aware that believing this particular miracle has proved a stumbling block even to many erstwhile Christians (though strangely so in my view; see the link: "Doubts about God's ability and Noah's ark").

It is certainly true that in various pagan traditions we find a great flood (the Sumerian being for these purposes the most interesting in my opinion), but what does that prove? The entire population of the world came from Noah's family and there certainly must have been an oral tradition about this massive event, the most recent and the most total devastation in human history to that point. We can surely expect that the story was passed down (and embellished, changed, distorted, used by the evil one for religious purposes; see the link: "Giants and Nephilim, Sumerian Myths, and Sea Monsters"). Please see also the following links:

What does the Bible really say about Noah and the great flood?

One additional interesting point about the Sumerian creation myth of Gilgamesh. According to a recent book, The evolution of the Gilgamesh epic (1982: Upenn press) by Jeffrey H. Tigay, the part of that epic which deals with the great flood was originally a separate piece of literature.

Do feel free to write back about any of this. And thank you so much for adding me to your prayer list. Your prayers are needful and greatly appreciated.

Yours in the dear Lord we serve, Jesus Christ our Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hello

I am really into history and science and would like to incorporate that into my understanding of the Bible. I know that we will never understand God fully, but is it alright to at least attempt and to search throughout history? or is it to easy to be tripped up and become entangled and confused in the tricks of Satan?

For example what am I to make of the Sumerians? History claims that Sumerian culture predates Judaism and that the book of Genesis is based on the Sumerian epic of creation. How does this fit on the Biblical timeline? Is this in between the fall of Adam and the time of Noah, before God gave Abraham Judaism? I'm confused, did these so called "aliens" from Sumerian culture were they really demons trying to create false gods and religion?

Response #2:

Good to make your acquaintance. The Sumerians, both their language and their civilization, are quite fascinating, I will readily admit. I don't think that either is of particular help for understanding scripture, however. Take the example of their creation mythology. Their epics do speak of a great flood, and to the extent that this recalls an oral tradition about the actual great flood, well and good. However, the Sumerian epics are not inspired literature, so that any parallels with the truth are coincidental only, and deviation from what we know from scripture to be true should be paid no heed. That is to say, these materials cannot tell us anything new; the best they can do is to confirm what we already know to be true from scripture.

One important aspect of this question is that Moses received his information directly from God in full inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This means that the Genesis account of all these things is absolutely correct. The Sumerian story of the flood, for example, is at best the result of a mythologized oral tradition. What is most critical to understand is that the two have nothing to do with each other in practical terms: in spite of any chronological question, Moses did not use the Sumerian myths and the Sumerian myths knew nothing of Genesis, the first divine account of the flood.

I have a few things posted to the site which you may find helpful in his regard (and please do feel free to write me back about any of the above):

Giants and Nephilim, Sumerian Myths, and Sea Monsters

Mythology and the Bible

The Tower of Babel

Science and the Bible

Yours in Jesus Christ who is the Truth,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

Wow – thank you for the thoughtful reply. I agree 100% with you on that. But what would I say to someone that says the Sumerians actually predate Judaism, meaning they were around before the Jews which I would think would in turn mean there religion would be around prior to when God revealed himself to the Jews? I really want to make sense of the Bible, please help me. I want to be able to defend it to the fullest

Thanks

Response #3:

The fact that Sumer predates Abraham (and Abraham predates Moses) would only be an issue in terms of scripture if the Bible were a matter of oral tradition and not a divinely inspired document.

As to pagan religion, God has never left Himself without a true witness (Acts 14:17), for the heavens and all that He has created speak the truth about Him continually (Ps.19; Rom.1:18-21). The Lord Himself gave the gospel to Adam and Eve, clothing them with the skins of animals whose shed blood spoke of the future sacrifice of Christ, and as early as Genesis 4:26 "[men] began to call on the name of the LORD" (NKJV). Except for the account in Genesis 14 (cf. Ps.110; Hebrews 7), we would not know that God ordained priests to Himself even before the calling out of Abraham. Before the Law, the divine economy was a patriarchal one of special revelation to heads of households who sought the Lord. The fact that we are not told much about what happened before the calling out of Abraham does not mean that the gospel wasn't always the same: it was, only that it anticipated the cross through animal sacrifice before Jesus came, just as it now commemorates the cross through communion after His death, resurrection, ascension and session. On all this you might want to see the link: Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology.

In the days of Sumer just as today most people were not interested in being saved – then as now they preferred to be gods unto themselves. The fact that people back then were not interested in the Lord at all in spite of His fantastic natural revelation of Himself in all He has made (and in spite of what He has done in condemning Jesus for all sin in order that they might be saved) means that He was certainly not obligated to give them a gospel they would only reject, having in fact already rejected any desire to know Him in their hearts (something of which He was well aware – this will be made clear at the last judgment).

24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 "Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead."
Acts 17:24-31 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ our Savior and the Lord of all mankind,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Thanks. So you're saying that we could place the Sumerians after the fall of Adam and before Abraham? And you're saying that in this time period God would chose to reveal himself to individuals but there was no organized law or religion?

Thanks

Response #4:

The Sumerian civilization definitely began after the flood and before Abraham's call. They most certainly did have religion – false, pagan religion, that is. The same is still true today for much of the globe (and to be frank many "Christian" nations are in my view that only in name). Just as Abraham was called by God – because he was willing to respond – there has never been a time when God let a single person fail of salvation for lack of information. All who desire to be saved are saved. But for those who are not interested, God is not required to provide the specifics of the gospel: they have His natural revelation which is more than sufficient to make all the important issues of life clear and to bring out the true desires of their hearts. People create "religions" because they have first rejected God's truth and want to produce "gods" of their own making instead.

We are not privy to the details of what happened to ever single Sumerian (indeed, we know but little which is absolutely definitive about their civilization). But we do know about God, that He is absolutely fair and just: if any Sumerian wished to be saved, He would have provided them with all they needed to know to be saved, one way or the other. Abraham's call and the existence of Melchizedek are two tantalizing glimpses of the sort of thing God does in His grace for those who love Him – and we wouldn't have a clue about either of them but for the testimony of scripture.

As I say, there is much on all of these issues in BB 4B Soteriology.

In Jesus who is our all in all,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Thanks Bob for this very thoughtful response. Its just unsettling as a Christian when you hear others claim that other religions predated Judaism.

You do not have to keep replying to my emails if you do not have time. But what do you think about the transition or "the passing of the torch" from Judaism to Christianity? Its hard for me to make sense of, its almost as if the God of the old testament and the new are 2 different Gods. Is this just a result of Israel turning its back on God, so he chose the Gentile over the Jew? What is it about Christ that the Jews do not accept, did he not fulfill all the prophecies?

Thanks

Response #5:

It's a pleasure to be of some help to my fellow Christians in these matters.

The truth about this issue has been severely muddied by incoherent and incorrect teaching over the ages. In truth, the Old and New Testaments are entirely consistent one with the other. There is almost nothing said in the epistles which is not paralleled in the gospels and the Old Testament, nothing in the gospels which is not foreshadowed in the Old and expanded in the rest of the New Testament, and nothing in the Old which is not picked up in the gospels and fleshed out in the epistles. This takes some depth of understanding of the whole gamut of Christian doctrine to appreciate fully, mind you, but it is nonetheless true. Case in point apropos of your question is the word "covenant". Biblically speaking, a covenant is a promise, and all of the promises in scripture are summed up in Jesus Christ (2Cor.1:20). The Old looks forward to and foreshadows the New; the New fulfills and explains the Old. But it is all about Jesus and the salvation God offers to the world through Him (see the link: "Covenants"). Jews and gentiles form the Church; Israel is the basis of the Church, but the Law, which postdates the creation of the Jewish people by many centuries (see Rom.5), was a special instrument meant to mark off God's special people as separate to Him; the universal offer of the gospel has now expanded the number of God's people tremendously in the fulfillment of the prophesied inclusion of the gentiles into the family of God. But the truth, the gospel, the means of salvation has always been the same (merely looking forward to a veiled Savior in the Old Testament and back to the revealed Savior in the New Testament). So it's always been the same "torch", to use your analogy, and Israel is still carrying it in part (there have always been believing Jews in the Church), and Israel will reclaim the leadership role once the Tribulation begins.

As to Israel's present "hardness in part" (Rom.11:25), those who refuse to believe are "not Israel" in the spiritual sense; only the "remnant according to the election of grace" is true Israel (Rom.11:5). As with all unbelievers, those who do not accept Jesus Christ may give a variety of reasons but in truth it always goes back to an unwillingness to accept God on His terms, preferring instead one's own view of what "ought to be": choosing one's own will over God's WILL (there is much more about all this in BB 4B: Soteriology).

Finally, one of the other main reasons why things seem "different" in the Old Testament is that most of it is directed to the nation-state of Israel, a people and a country with whom God dealt corporately. Everyone in Israel was considered to be a believer, and the nation was blessed or disciplined as one. Of course not everyone in Israel believed during good times, and in times of national apostasy not everyone rejected the Lord. Ultimately, God deals with us all one to one. But the perspective of scripture and of God's dealing with the nation is that "all" are supposed to be His people (not the case with any other nation before or since – including the secular modern day state of Israel). This, for example, explains why John's water-baptism (the only legitimate water-baptism) was a baptism "of repentance": regardless of the actual spiritual state of the individuals who came to John to be baptized, there were considered, corporately, to be a nation of believers, albeit in a very low spiritual state and in need of "repentance" to prepare them spiritually for the coming of the Messiah. This corporate relationship principle also helps to explain things like the sermon on the mount, wherein some of the godly behaviors Christ commends would only be fully possible in a nation truly under God (compare Matt.5:39-42 with Lk.22:35-36; cf. Ps.12:8; Prov.28:12; 28:28; Eccl.; 8:11; Is.59:14-15; Amos 5:12-15).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the true King of the true Jews and of all who believe.

Bob L.

Question #6:

Dear Dr. Bob,

I hope you are well, and enjoying the spring. Something has always confused me about Numbers 21:4-11. The Israelites became very discouraged and discontented, and began speaking against The Lord and Moses. As punishment, The Lord sent "fiery" serpents against the people, who were bitten, sickened, and many even died.

The people realized they had sinned, and came to Moses and repented. Moses prayed for them, and The Lord told him to make a fiery serpent of bronze and put it on a pole and everyone who looked on it would be healed.

First, what is meant by "fiery serpent?" Were they supernatural snakes of fire? Was it a fiery color? Or does "fiery" refer to the burn of their venom?

My bigger question is this: while many say this was a type of the crucifixion, it seems as though it could be interpreted as a form of idol worship. Wouldn't the people think the bronze serpent healed them, rather than the grace of God?

This is very confusing, and in a faint way, disturbing.

If there is an answer, I know you will have it. Thank you for your service in the name of the One who always saves us.

Response #6:

Good to hear from you.

The Hebrew adjective saraph, "burning", is added to the word for snake/serpent in this context, and in my view it is the venomous nature of the bite that is being referred to rather than color or anything else.

As to your concerns with idolatry, indeed, here is what I read later in scripture:

He (Hosea) removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
2 Kings 18:4 KJV

The misuse of divinely appointed laws, regulations or paraphernalia does not make them intrinsically bad, however. After all, the twisted generation to whom Jesus came and who rejected Him made entirely wrong use of the Law. And legalism has been a problem for millennia now. But "the Law is good – if one uses it properly (1Tim.1:8 NIV).

We are blessed today to have the truth of the Word of God as our sole standard of faith and practice, and that to me is such a blessing I cannot even describe how wonderful I feel it to be. But even so most Christians are little concerned with the truth these days, and misuse the Word of God just as horribly as the Israelites did all of the wonderful shadows of the Law that prefigured our dear Lord Jesus and His work on our behalf. All we can do is to stand strong for the truth, and not give into to the compromises that most of those in our Laodicean age have enthroned in their hearts and their churches.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Good morning, Brother Bob,

Thank you for your response. It is amazing the truths we can learn from ancient history. I didn't recall that passage in 2 Kings until you reminded me. The lesson I learned from this is we need to guard our hearts and minds, and keep our eyes on our Savior. We tend to enjoy His blessings, but not give Him credit for them. We pray for healing, but when we get well, we think, "Oh, that medicine finally worked." We ask Him to bless our work, but when we get a raise, we think, "I deserve this because I'm so talented and hardworking." But then when we don't get what we want, we blame Him! We make idols of all sorts of things today: money, beauty, political figures, charismatic speakers (I can't call them preachers or evangelists, since most of them don't speak the Word). It is sometimes hard to keep trudging down that narrow path without veering off to that wide glittering highway right over there. In a lot of churches, people treat God as an ATM. Some churches teach the love of God, without recognizing His holiness. Some churches are very "I" centered, focusing on what He can do for them rather than what they should do for Him. Some churches focus on the judgmental side of God, forgetting about grace. Some will narrow in on a few verses and build a doctrine on that. Others will entirely forget the Word, and use books written by men and inspired by human imagination. The people tend to revere their leaders more than their Lord. They can't understand the Gospel, and accuse those who do of being unsaved, unholy, blasphemous. The god they believe in is not the God of the Bible. All of these practices lead people down that wide highway heading for doom. I thank God for His discipline, and for the Holy Spirit within in me, Who urges me back onto my path when I start to veer away. I thank God for your ministry of teaching and breaking down the Word so I, and all other students you have, are able to better understand the inspired words of the Word.

Have a wonderful day,

Response #7:

Thank you for your wise and encouraging words. I appreciate them very much and hope to get to posting this correspondence soon (sometimes it does take a while), as I am sure that others will draw encouragement from them as I have done.

Keeping fighting the good fight in Jesus Christ our Lord!

Bob L.

Question #8:

In Numbers 21:8 why did God tell Moses to make a bronze serpent? why are serpents used so often in the Bible? Even in our society today the snake is a symbol for medicine and doctors. a serpent with angel wings? Seems odd, no?

Response #8:

There are no "wings" on the serpent Moses was commanded to make. The caduceus (which has the wings) is actually a pagan symbol (Mercury's herald's staff). The true symbolism in Numbers chapter 21 is to the cross, with the serpent representing the original fall of mankind and thereby all of human sin which Christ bore on that cross. By looking to the symbol of the Savior's coming judgment for their sins, the people were healed; by looking to the One who has now actually borne those sins on the cross, all who do so are saved.

Question #9:

Hello Bob,

One thing that I am realizing is how careful I need to be when reading things on the Internet. I recently came across on that seems to go to extremes on avoiding graven images...going so far as to say we should not have in our homes any toys, birds, etc, shaped like images that were forbidden in the Old testament. That seems a bit extreme. I can just imagine the wrath of my wife and kids if I start pitching out anything that resembles an old testament forbidden thing! The Word says that to the clean all things are clean; but to the defied and unbelieving nothing is clean! Paul says that to completely avoid the defiled, we would have to leave the world! A knife can be used either to cut a roast or kill someone.

I'll tell you what I think are idols that need to go! The TV, too much use of the Internet, anything that keeps me from developing my relationship either with God or other people. Paul said that he counted all things as rubbish so that he could fully know Christ, the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. I to break anything that seems like an addiction and turn away from idolatry, but I will not be brought into the bondage, fear, and guilt of seeing an accursed thing in every bird-shaped toy or picture. Comments? Thanks for all your help.

Response #9:

Yes, I certainly think you have this absolutely right. A big part of spiritual maturity is the achieving and exercising of spiritual common sense, and part of that is perspective. Gyrating wildly from one extreme of behavior to another in very odd ways is a mark of spiritual immaturity (at the very least). Such immaturity is the rule in our day in the absence of much serious Bible teaching, and so there is what seems to me to be an accelerating tendency out there in evangelicalism land today to latch onto to one verse or one concept often poorly or even completely understood and then turn it into a "hobby-horse" of sorts which can come to dominate the person's or the clique's entire approach to Christianity. Some of these are worse than others, of course (one of those things is that part of the Messianic movement that is attempting to re-institute observance of the Mosaic law, for example).

The first three commandments focus on our attitude to the Lord, guiding us in a proscriptive (rather than a prescriptive way) by telling us to stay away from anything wrong in how we may think about Him (#1; Ex.20:2), act toward Him (#2; Ex.20:4-6), or speak about Him (#3; Ex.20:7). Idolatry (#2) is essentially living our lives in opposition to Him, and the actual giving of ourselves over to the worship of the devil (or one of his substitutes) is the most extreme form of this in literal terms – something that, it would seem to me, would be impossible for a true believer to do (at least and stay a believer for very long). Scripture finds one of the most severe form of idolatry for believers to be greed (Eph.5:5; Col.3:5), namely, placing our desires at the top of our priority list and making "gods" out of them in despite of Him who ought to be our first love in every way, Jesus Christ, the One who died to save us.

Hang in there my friend! You remain in my prayers daily in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Dr. Luginbill - do you celebrate Christmas and Easter? And if so, why?

Thanks for your time.

Response #10:

Good to make your acquaintance.

To answer your question, no, I do not go out of my way to celebrate either, considering along with Romans 14:5 "every day the same" – as an opportunity for Christ. I do, however, have plenty of friends and family who do consider these days special, and I do not go out of my way to try to "correct" them or share unwanted opinions. Personally, I don't see anything wrong per se with going to non-Bible-teaching church (even if the service is celebrating some holiday) or a party (even if it is a holiday party) or a dinner (even if it is a holiday dinner). None of these things contribute to spiritual growth, however (and can be detrimental to growth if the opposite is assumed). The main thing is what is in a person's heart and what is the truth. You might also have a look at the following links:

Putting Christ in Christmas.

Is it Valid to Celebrate Christmas?

Is celebrating Christmas permissible?

Merry Christmas?

Nimrod and Christmas trees, Tongues, and Healing.

Is it wrong to celebrate Easter?

Easter and paganism

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior – every day.

Bob Luginbill

Question #11:

I believe that you believe that Christmas celebration is pagan thing. I need Yes or No. Do we also join? But when I remember 2 Cor.6:14-16, I feel it is unlawful regardless of the state of mind when doing it.

Response #11:

On Christmas, I don't necessarily see it as "pagan". The origins of the modern celebration are Christian, even if traditionalist. Christmas means to individuals what it means to them individually. It's not a biblical holiday, but a religious one. I fully understand those who wish not to celebrate it and I feel no need at all to condemn or dissuade those who do wish to do so. I try to sanctify the Lord Jesus in my heart every day (as opposed to being someone who "observes days"), but when dealing with those who are caught up in the traditions of religion and/or who are spiritually immature, in my view there are better "mountains to fight for" than whether or not to celebrate Christmas. These are "disputable matters", and Paul says (Rom.14:1ff.). So I prefer not to "rain on the parade" of those who enjoy such rituals, since they are not a critical matter in my view, and instead to "hold fire" for things that are of more spiritual moment. You can find out more at the following links:

Putting Christ in Christmas.

Is it Valid to Celebrate Christmas?

Is celebrating Christmas permissible?

Merry Christmas?

Nimrod and Christmas trees, Tongues, and Healing.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

I can understand why people would be reluctant to place Jesus among such villains, since these men were anti-God (despite putting up a good show). But it should also be stated that the Pharisees were also the only ones who were really studying the scriptures, which can be seen from how Gamaliel and Paul came from them, and not from the Sadducees and Essenes. We also know that Jesus frequented the temple and studied the scriptures, so the Jewish group He must've studied under were either the Essenes, Sadducees, or the Pharisees (as there were no other groups existing). This Jewish group couldn't have been the Essenes, as they were in the middle of the desert; the Sadducees were also not them, as they denied core doctrines of the Bible and were unlikely to associate with a tradesman's son, which really leaves the Pharisees as the only group by process of elimination. Q.E.D.

[Details omitted]

While I try to be an open-minded person, I recommend that you and nobody near to you get attracted to Japanese culture in any way; be it either the pop culture (which has a mass following in the USA), the religion, the martial arts (which includes Karate and Kendo, and almost always have a `spiritual' component), or anything else for that matter. I know more about Japan than the typical clueless Westerner, and her docile and polite appearance obscures her very anti-God disposition. Unfortunately, much like how people mock those preachers who decry /Harry Potter/ on the grounds of it `encouraging literacy,' there are many who will read this and mock me on the grounds of `tolerance' and 'anti-racism.' However, even if secularists are bemused and in the dark, we Christians are well aware of territories having their unique `princes' who have harassed believers for millennia (Daniel 10:13).

Sincerely,

Response #12:

Thanks for this. I included the grammar discussion as a way of demonstrating that in my reading of the Greek passage it does not seem to me that it is necessary to assume that John is thinking of Jesus as a Pharisee. "Among you" can mean "you Jews" rather than "you Pharisees in particular". I think that is the most natural way to take it.

Yes, I entirely agree. Christians should stay far away from anything having anything to do with the occult, no matter how mild-mannered and generally culturally accepted it may seem or have become (see the link: "Religion and the Occult").

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend! I draw encouragement from your growing spiritual confidence and perspicacity.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Dear Bob,

I thank you very much for the blessing of your presence in these times and ask if there is any "quantum guidance" (e.g., using quantum physics, molecular biology, or quantum neuroscience as metaphors) regarding eschatology in religions in addition to the wonderful guidance in "The Gospel and the Kingdom of God."

Bahα'ν eschatology

Buddhist eschatology

Christian eschatology

Hindu eschatology

Islamic eschatology

Jewish eschatology

Zoroastrian eschatology

What do you suggest as a way to go beyond the assertion... "I"m right and you're wrong" ... claimed by each of these perspectives?

Response #13:

It's always a pleasure to hear from you, my friend, and your very kind words are always appreciated as well. Let me say right from the start that I'm not sure how much help that could be called "quantum" I am able to provide – unless it is in the Latin sense of the word, namely, "how much?" (as in "how much" I still have to learn and "how much" I still have to do).

Eschatology is an essential subset of the doctrine of all religions because all religions have to give an answer to the question "what comes next?", both personally and globally. That said, Christian eschatology is different from that of all of the religions of the world because it is true and therefore gives honest answers to those questions. Paul Tillich called death "the ultimate concern" for all human beings, and indeed our mortality, the fear of death, is one of the fundamental ways in which God gets our attention (this was certainly how I was saved as a very young lad). Fear of death motivates us, then natural revelation takes over. Internally, in our individual psychology, we are hard-wired to know about God, and externally, everything we see in the entire creation proclaims that there is a Creator. Not only that, internally we are hard-wired to recognize the standard of perfection, and externally everything we see bespeaks the absolute perfection, power and righteousness of the One who is. And that perfection, power and righteousness stands in the starkest of contrasts to our own obvious imperfection and the inability to fix it ourselves. If we respond to these universal truths – made universally clear to the hearts of all human beings – God never fails to provide the truth about salvation (and of course everything else about Himself thereafter including eschatology). But in the history of the world the percentage of human beings who have wanted to know about Him has been infinitesimally small. This dilemma is the germ of the answer to your question. This knowledge of death, of a perfectly righteous God who will judge them after death, and of the fact that we are sinful and must thus be condemned at the coming judgment – absent divine intervention – are uncomfortable facts indeed for all human beings. One would think that these truths would lead to conversion, but, in the vast majority of cases where they do not, were it not for the ability to blot out the truth of these fundamental realities, life would be impossible for most unbelievers to live. So God allows us all to harden our hearts against the truth – if that is what we choose to do – so as to be able to continue with the process of life without being paralyzed by the calculus of death and judgment which would otherwise occur. People have the ability to become blind, and the evil one has developed a comprehensive system to help unbelievers keep the blinders on, in a word, religion. Religion is a key part of the devil's system of control because it helps relieve the majority of mankind of any need to think about the "ultimate concern" very closely once they have decided to ignore the truth about death, sinfulness and the judgment to come. Religion gives people "something positive" to put in the hole left by their refusal to respond to God's truth. In short, religion substitutes a comfortable lie for the truth. This can only happen after the truth has first been rejected, but whenever truth is rejected, something else will always flow into the space in the heart which must be filled, and Satan has concocted all manner of attractive lies to fit that bill.

From the point of view of believers, the eschatology of scripture (rightly understood, it goes without saying) has the virtue of being true, so that all protestations to the contrary by whatever religion are objectively merely irrational nonsense. From the point of view of God, believers are right and unbelievers are wrong, plain and simple. From the standpoint of apologetics, convincing partisans of one religion or another that their eschatology (or any other doctrinal subset) is wrong is very problematic; that is because to be a religious partisan not only does a person first have to reject God and His solution in Jesus Christ and then harden his/her heart against the truths everyone who enters this world is given to understand, but a person also has to embrace the particular lie in question, and earnestly enough so as to become a partisan of that particular substitute for the truth. People who are this far down the road are very unlikely to respond in a positive way. Arguing with them if at all profitable is likely only to be so in the case of onlookers (as when Paul in the process of evangelizing ended up disputing with some philosophers at Athens leading indirectly to the salvation of some who heard the gospel indirectly; compare Acts 17:17-19 with Acts 17:34).

And, after all, Christian doctrine is a matter of faith. We are saved by grace through faith in the truth (Eph.2:8-9) and we grow by grace through faith in the truth (2Pet.3:18), progressing from faith to faith (Rom.1:17), through which faith alone we are able to please our Lord (Heb.11:6). Thomas demanded proof (Jn.20:25), but as our Lord said, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (Jn.20:29 NIV). This is a long way of saying that from a materialistic and academic perspective it seems impossible to prove that "I am right and you are wrong". Given what a large percentage of people continued in unbelief after seeing the miracles of our Lord and His apostles first-hand, even supernatural proof would seem to be insufficient in all such cases where the person in question has decided against God (we are here in this world to choose; on all this, please see the link: BB 4B: Soteriology).

The problem for unbelievers is that they are, in fact, wrong, and tragically so. Not only that, at the last judgment it will be made clear to each and every person condemned that in their heart of hearts they knew very well that they were in fact wrong – at least until they had so hardened their hearts that they rendered the perception of any of God's truth effectively impossible (and that too is a decision, or, more precisely, a series of decisions; see the link: The Last Judgment). How can you prove to a blind man that your shirt is red, not green? How can you prove to a deaf man that the song you are singing is in the key D, not C? The literal blind and deaf are surely not to be thought ill of in any way for these perceptual inabilities, but for those who cannot see the truth it is always a result of the fact that they will not see the truth.

Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."
John 9:39 NIV

People are brought up in all manner of false religious traditions and yet find the Lord, while on the other hand many brought up in Christian homes end up straying from the Lord. It is all about choice, and those who have gotten to the point of proclaiming Christians "wrong" on any doctrinal subject, and their own religion "right" are at the very least standing on the banks of the lake of fire – if they have not already by willful rejection of the truth caused their names to be blotted out of the book of life.

I hope this answer is not too disappointing. Please do write me back about any of the above.

Yours in Him who is the only truth – the way and the life – our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Bob,

I thank you very much for your adroitly helpful response to my "quantum question," with God’s grace. You immediately take the "quantum question" to "what comes next?" A pursuit of "What comes next?" is the same question asked in the "quantum physics" as well as other "quantum inquires" that I’ve seen, leading to an endless pursuit, but never quite getting to "we are hard-wired to know about God, and externally, everything we see in the entire creation proclaims that there is a Creator." Instead, "We're reaching into the fabric of the Universe at a level we've never done before," said Prof Incandela. "We're on the frontier now, on the edge of a new exploration. This could be the only part of the story that's left, or we could open a whole new realm of discovery." - 4 July 2012 - Higgs boson-like particle discovery claimed at LHC

Bob, I use "quantum metaphors" is my work in the public arena to approach as closely as the situation allows to "the absolute perfection, power and righteousness of the One who is."

I use "Quantum Storytelling" to invite from storytellers (i.e., harassment, bullying, aggressive behavior, parent/student-administration conflicts, drug addition, racial, gender, and culture differences) "What comes next?" as well as to encourage the question "What went before?"

Response #14:

Glad to be of some help! And thank you for these illuminating comments. I found them most interesting indeed.

Best wishes for your secular work and for your continuing service to the Body of Christ.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Dear Bob,

I was reading Luke and Exodus again today (I read a little every day), and did run into a couple of confusing. First off, in Exodus, one of the Lord's command's in 23: 13 is about never calling out to other gods, obviously, but to 'never speak their names'. Just to make sure, this includes fake/made-up gods, right? Come to think of it, our God is the only God, so aren't all others made up? Thank you for answering this, in advance.

The next two come from Luke 23, both 26-31 and 50-54. Jesus speaks of how fortunate women who have not breast fed or given labor will be when the Tribulation starts, I believe: what does he mean by this?

Then Luke 23: 50-54 is about a seeming inconsistency between books. In previous books, wasn't it (I may be wrong) Cyrene who took Jesus' body to bury it, not Joseph? Are they the same person, or did they work together, or... I would like some clarification on this, if that's ok? If these are already answered on your site I apologize in advance.

Response #15:

Always good to hear from you. As to your questions:

1) I think that Exodus 23:13 has to do mostly with formally invoking the names of false gods, and at most of speaking about them as if they existed and had any kind of power. Just about any command can be taken a step too far. If, for example, a believer refused to mention the days of the week because they are named for pagan gods (e.g., referring to Tuesday as "the third day of the week" instead of Tuesday), that would seem to me quite self-righteous, not to mention ridiculous, and could potentially cause all sorts of problems for the person in question (i.e., a soldier who refused to say "Friday" and would only refer to it as "the sixth day" could easily end up causing confusion in relaying information and might even cause loss of life – mission run on the wrong day, e.g.). See the link: "Pagan names".

2) I believe our Lord is referring to the obvious trouble a pregnant woman or nursing mother would have in the dire circumstances to come: it will be bad enough on that day to be an agile adult male if you have to drop everything and run for your life.

3) Simon of Cyrene is dragooned into carrying our Lord's cross to Calvary (this probably happened about half way when Jesus, having been beaten nearly to death, was unable to continue with that load). Joseph of Arimathea is the member of the council who requests Jesus' body from Pilate and then places in the tomb.

Hope all goes well for you, my friend. Keep running the race.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hey man just curious can u tell me how come Jesus Christ and horus have the same story . Are they the same person. ?

Response #16:

I'm not sure to whom you are referring. Jesus Christ is the unique Person of the universe, the One who created it, the One who created you and me, the One who died on cross for the sins of the world, for your sins and mine, that we might have eternal life through faith in His Name. There is no else like Him. No one. Here are a couple of links to help with that:

Jesus is God

The Divinity of Jesus Christ

Jesus is God and Man

The Person of Jesus Christ (in BB 4A: Christology)

Mythology and the Bible

Yours in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world,

Bob Luginbill

Question #17:

Personally I'm a strong believer in Christ. I know he is the truth because I've studied a few things

But I came across Horus the egyptian sun god which was born from a virgin. Crucified and rose again on the 3rd and he is gods beloved son and is the second person of the trinity

Just curious because Jesus existed before; I wonder if he came down before in another era of time. Can u study the person of Horus and tell? Btw have u read the sumerian text?

Response #17:

The devil is very practiced at forgery (Jn.8:44), and all pagan mythology and religion, since it is intimately connected with Satan, always has a small element of truth – the better to get people to accept the lie (see the link: SR 4: Satan's World System). I can assure that our dear Lord Jesus has only come to earth once as a human being. He died for the sins of the world, was resurrected and has now ascended to wait until the time when He returns to take over His Kingdom.

There have been many "false Christs" and many false representations of the truth of Jesus Christ in religion and myth from the earliest days until the present day. The most horrific of these will be the beast, Satan's son, antichrist, who will claim to be Jesus Christ. What makes him the most extreme example of Satan's falsifications in this regard is that he will actually convince much of the world that his monstrous lie is true, and will "take his seat in the temple of God" proclaiming himself to be God and the Messiah (2Thes.2:4). There is much more about that subject at the link: CT 3B: Antichrist and his Kingdom.

So I wouldn't worry about any pagan religious figure or false god, or any mythological tale that seems to be similar in some way or ways to the truth of the Bible. There are similarities, and deliberately so, since the evil one is always making use of whatever avenue he can to pull believers from the way of salvation and to lock up the kingdom of heaven for unbelievers so that they may not be saved:

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
Matthew 13:19 NIV

In addition to what I sent you before, please have a look at these links (and do feel free to write back):

Sumerian mythology

Genesis Questions (esp. #2)

Yours in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and the only way to eternal life,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi there, I'm a born again tattoo artist. I believe the Lord showed me my life previous to being saved with regards my occupation , as being from demonic motivations, I agreed with the conviction at the time, and followed the 'instructions' I believe the Lord placed on my heart, to render my service as approved. Namely, the pursuit of excellence, the necessity of prayer before each tattoo, and a heart for evangelism and 'people'.

Many are brought to the Lord through my work, daily, which mainly involves unsaved folks. and I have found a unique prophetic ministry pursuing service in it. I do not advertise, or encourage people to the choice, but once made, I guide to minimize regret in all instances, turning away as many as I accept. I am booked solid long in advance with clientele.

I spend more one on one time intimately, with a broader cross section of the community than anyone in my city, I bring more people to church than any other in my church . Not to justify, but to demonstrate the opportunity the Lord has given me.

My problem is that my church stands opposed doctrinally, to tattoos, and my occupation. And carries an attitude of condemnation towards it.

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, although i believe it hampers the great commission set before me. I enjoy the stimulation it presents and has made me pursue doctrinal clarity. But I want to share with you and your readers an insight to the importance of never being the agency by which a person is made to regret a decision they cannot change. I believe -You ,nor I, nor the church, has a right to have a perspective ,or an opinion that does that. And as it is one of the main youth concerns around today. I feel that the church needs to revise its position , so as not to pass judgement on folks wanting to come to the Lord, but are hindered by the attitudes of its representatives.

The holy spirit works in mysterious ways, and if you have a tattoo- you needed it! The same with your entire perfect, yet flawed, human history.

And if someone has on their heart to get one, have faith, that the same spirit can bring them to salvation in the following of that desire. Life is messy, live it, and let others live.

Obviously, being a disciple, means denial of self, so the concern is not for they, but with those who are saved or not. Not all are called to discipleship, though they may be saved in my opinion. And we are to "come as we are called."tattoos and all.

To link modern tattooing with the mark of the beast, is as irresponsible as linking it to the mark on the Lords thigh,( rev19:16), and quoting Leviticus out of context for mourning for the dead in ancient pagan cultures, does not anticipate nano tech tattoos that change colour to allow insulin deficient patients to monitor blood sugar, or advanced laser removal tech, not to mention the level of excellence in fine art being demonstrated , and God only knows how easily, we will apply and remove images to our skin in the future. Seems like poor doctrine and superstitious thinking from folks who should know better.

I welcome your perspective, pro, or against.

Response #18:

Good to make your acquaintance. Well said. My old pastor used to tell about churches that railed against the evils of alcohol and laid guilt trips on any cocktail waitress who made it to church . . . pressuring them to quit their jobs. As he very correctly pointed out, there is certainly nothing sinful in doing something which is neither illegal nor intrinsically immoral in order to earn a living. That is true regardless of some people's self-righteous sensibilities. Just because something can be abused, doesn't make it sinful. If we were to apply that false standard to everything, well, it is difficult to imagine a job or profession where there would be no possibility of anything untoward.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
1st Corinthians 5:9-10 NIV

I come from a generation when only sailors and inmates had tattoos, so that has of course colored my own reaction to this issue, but I do realize that things are different now. Christians should always be mindful of how what they do and say, and how they present themselves, is taken by others; but that does not mean either that they give up all freedom (especially in matters where there is no real issue of faith at stake) or that they should allow themselves to be bullied out of what they think is right to do (especially when it is not a case of a weaker brother's faith being harmed but merely the sensibilities of the self-righteous being upset). As a Classics professor by day, I am frequently asked about the correct Latin or Greek wording/phrasing/spelling of potential tattoos. Despite my own predilections, I don't "rain on their parade"; rather, I do my best to help them get it right: if they are determined to get one anyway, it might as well not be incorrectly spelled or put. I think if a Christian I knew was bound and determined to get one, I would send them to you. I have to say, I find your use of this medium for witnessing and Christian guidance a fulfillment of a principle I am constantly trying to explain to all readers, namely, that we are all called to some ministry for Jesus Christ, everyone of those who belong to Him, and it is wrong to think of these ministries only in the traditional terms defined by the (largely spiritually dead) present-day church-visible and its dead rituals.

All things being equal, in my opinion it would be better not to get a tattoo. But I don't make decisions for everyone; we all make our own. And there is nothing I find in scripture to indicate that it is some sort of a unpardonable sin (I can't even find justification to call it a sin at all). All things being equal, it would be better never to touch alcohol, but while there is some biblical justification for saying this (e.g., Rom.14:21), the same does not apply directly to tattoos. All things being equal, it would be better not to marry (1Cor.7:1); and while there is some definite biblical guidance on that score, it is not a sin to marry and the vast majority of Christians are much better off married (1Cor.7:2). So in disputable matters such as this, all anyone teaching the Bible is authorized to do is to approach this on the basis of general principles.

The one thing I would say about this in the negative is that some linking of the issue with the mark of the beast is not entirely out of place. One of the things that will contribute to the ease with which people will take the mark is the removal of any sort of social stigma related to tattoos generally. That has very little application to specific cases, of course. We are where we are, and in my considered opinion, the last thing any serious Christian should do is to get involved in politics or political action or try to "change society" in any way. We are here to make an individual impact for Christ by performing the particular ministries we have been given; that is how we help the Body. So, again, it is not for me to judge or to find fault with your particular application of the truth in an area where the Bible is largely silent (in applicable substance), and, as I say, if there is a right way to do this, you seem to have found it. I do wonder, however, why you are hanging in there with a church which has things upside down. Most churches today are not at all interested in the truth of the Word of God, and that explains why they often get so het up about unimportant things; it also explains why this ministry is on the internet (i.e., as a church for Christians who can't find the truth being taught in a "church").

While I have been on balance someone who has discouraged the practice of tattoos, I try to make it clear that this is not because the Bible directly prohibits it, and it is also fair to say that I have mellowed out in my predisposition to discourage it as more and more younger Christians have been doing it (and more and more have been coming to Christ with tattoos already in place): there are a lot more weighty issues, after all, and I would not want to trip anyone up based on something so relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of the Plan of God. Here are some other links at Ichthys where this matter is addressed from several viewpoints:

Piercing and Tattoos versus Legalism

Principles of truth in the matter of tattoos and body piercing

Should I get a commitment tattoo?

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #19:

Dear Robert,

I am greatly humbled by your response. that a man of your learning and experience would condescend to address my layman's rant, is a true reflection of your heart for service. I have never ventured to express my opinions as I have to you. And although I didn't write to garner support, it is refreshing to hear from a sound mind concerned with thoughtful investigation, rather than the reactionary sentimentalism of the feel good Charismatics. A wave of mean spirited condemnation has seemed to invade many of the church representatives that I have had limited contact with .

I actually came to your site looking at end times discussions and stumbled upon some letters about tattoos. Normally I don't engage those kind of topics, because it is usually emotionally driven, but your responses seemed to contain an open mindedness, balanced with sound judgement I hadn't read elsewhere. Not to be a flatterer, but just to appreciate your ministry, I look forward to investigating there more often.

Thanks, God bless

Response #19:

You are very welcome,

Do feel free to write me back about this or anything else, and keep fighting the good fight of faith in Jesus Christ.

Your friend in our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

[details about the influence of a person given to the occult controlling the greater family omitted]

Is there anything in the bible, about false prophets or whatever u wish to call these people, which I should read? Or anything you wish to share ?

In Him,

Response #20:

I sympathize with your difficult situation, my friend. I do remember you talking about it and I have been specifically mentioning it to the Lord in prayer every day. I think your intentions are honorable and I will be praying for your success in extricating yourself from the evil influence – for your sake and the sake of your family. God has a way of working everything out together for good as we well know. It is not uncommon for children to live with their parents a rather long time here in the U.S., but is frowned upon generally speaking rather than being expected. Of course we are a diverse country and so any such generalization can be meet with innumerable exceptions. Moreover, every situation is unique: for what it is worth, I think you have done the right thing and are straining to do the right thing going forward as well.

The behavior you report is characteristic of all cult behavior, and there is no dearth of cults here in the U.S. Even so-called Christian groups are not immune from such things (you may have heard of David Koresh and the Waco TX incident or Jim Jones and the People's Temple, for example). Historically, Rasputin and his excessive influence on the Romanov family seems a good parallel to what you report (he was a "Christian" monk). The Bible has plenty to say about false teachers and false teaching (see for example the link "cults and cult characteristics"), and much of it relates specifically to the end times since it will be during the Tribulation when this sort of thing will explode as never before in world history in the form of antichrist's religion, also infecting the Church of Christ to an astounding degree, that is, the "Church visible" (as opposed to true believers), and also claiming the faith of one third of actual believers in the Great Apostasy and then the lives of one third more in the Great Persecution (all of these matters are covered in the CT series but please do let me know if you want specific links). So as bad as things are now, and I do understand that they are worse for you in this regard than for most other believers at present, they are bound to get worse.

Blessedly, our God is a God of deliverances, and I shall be doing battle with you in my prayers for an astounding deliverance which will be clear to all as having come from the Lord – as the only One who could have accomplished it.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.
1st John 5:14-15 NIV

May He keep you and your family safe and deliver you out of the clutches of the evil one in a dramatic way with upraised hand.

In Jesus our Rock,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Do current new age Christian practices like "Christian Yoga" (whatever that may be) qualify as pagan accommodation if that's truly what the Nicolaitanes represented? Would it be considered Nicolaitane practice?

Response #21:

The Nicolaitans were a historical group but also represent a trend that can be found throughout the Church Age of "Christian" public opinion being given precedence over scripture, and of false teachers ever willing to exploit that tendency (see the link). So in a general sort of way I suppose we can make a connection between any sort of compromised practice and this group/trend. One has to exercise a bit of care in being too exclusive in what we may choose to disapprove of, however. To be absolutely simon-pure we would need to go out of the world entirely (1Cor.5:10). There are few activities in life and few organizations without some sort of putative impurity. To take your example, even though I have the same concern on this one, physical stretching in various ways is not necessarily paganism; worshiping Hindu gods or Buddha absolutely is. Something like Yoga may be innocuous enough, in spite of its origins, if no spiritual dimension is attached or taken seriously. But it is also good for Christians to recognize the potential danger, especially if they have a personal vulnerability where such things are concerned, and especially if such a "spiritual" agenda is being pushed in the place they are engaging in this activity.

Bob L.

Question #22:

Dear Bob,

If I may call you that. I certainly mean no disrespect.

Again, you've not only answered my questions but introduced me to a new train of thought - namely, "...being given precedence over scripture, and of false teachers ever willing..." That's a far broader (and useful) understanding than I've had up to now. Thank you.

I was steeped in the '60s "new age" nonsense so I've had a tendency to see anything that relates to that in very stark light. It's difficult for me to be open-minded in those areas.

Thanks for your insight.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #22:

You're very welcome, and "Bob" is AOK.

I can certainly appreciate your perspective of prudence and also your reasonableness in applying it. Different people have tendencies to get in trouble with different things. Some people can play cards socially without any temptation; others buy one lottery ticket and the next thing you know they're addicted to gambling and ruining their lives. When it comes to "disputable matters" (Rom.14:1), we all need to be wary of judging others in regard to activities that may not be sinful in all of their forms, while at the same time we recognize that such things might be very dangerous to ourselves or others too. Caution and loving concern on the one hand coupled with patience and tolerance on the other is the sweet-spot of the middle ground; being hyper-judgmental of others or indulging with abandon ourselves and/or condoning such conduct are the extremes that will send us tumbling off either side of the path.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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